Oak Island Town Council tentatively agreed Tuesday to file a friend of the court brief, when appropriate, supporting environmental groups and local governments fighting seismic testing for oil and natural gas in most of the Atlantic Ocean.
Lawsuits filed in South Carolina in December 2018 by Southern Environmental Law Center and others claim that National Marine Fisheries Service violated several federal laws when it issued permits for five companies to perform seismic airgun tests for oil deposits.
The tests use high-powered, loud blasts of air to probe the seafloor geology. A host of scientists and others claim tests can harm marine mammals, such as whales and dolphins, and kill fish larvae and certain types of plankton, tiny organisms that form the base of the ocean food chain.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and the governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia and Rhode Island have signed a letter expressing similar concerns. At least four residents spoke in favor of Oak Island filing an amicus brief on the issue during the public comments portion of the meeting.
Council instructed Town Attorney Brian Edes to survey the situation and file a friend of the court brief at the appropriate time.
The decision mirrors council’s earlier resolution opposing drilling for offshore oil and gas, a plan endorsed by the Donald Trump administration.
Council entertained the notion of relaxing the town’s rules against keeping fowl but made no decision.
Nancy Cappola and Katie Vinson asked that Katie, a ninth-grader, be allowed to keep her silkie chickens. She said they were quiet and should be allowed as pets. She said she bathed the birds, painted their nails and put ribbons in their feathers.
Council member Sheila Bell asked staff to look into the matter and make recommendations. She said the town should not allow roosters.
Council agreed to strictly limit construction to the maximum height of 41 feet in VE (velocity) flood zones and 35 feet in other zones on the island. The issue arose when the planning board considered possible standards for architectural features such as cupolas and observation towers.
Previously, town staff was allowing certain features to extend beyond the height limits as long as the additions did not constitute a habitable area. Rather than allow architectural features to extend a certain amount, town council asked that the height limits be strictly enforced for all types of construction.
Dara Royal reminded council that the 2006 referendum on limiting building height passed overwhelmingly. She praised the more restrictive language and urged council to continue to be vigilant on height restrictions.
Council approved rules for temporary housing during repairs after a disaster, technical additions to the stormwater rules and a rezoning that changed a parcel’s split zoning from commercial and residential to all residential. The parcel in question is off SE 72nd Street at the parking area for St. James by the Sea.
Finance Director David Hatten and Tax Collector Katie Coleman reviewed Brunswick County’s new real property valuations and explained the process for appeals.
A couple of speakers also asked that, when considering the town’s street rights of way, that there be protections for owners who have voluntarily seeded and maintained the road shoulders.
In other business, council:
• Heard a resident’s request for a traffic signal near the new Dollar General. Staff reported that the state Department of Transportation, not the town, controls access to East Oak Island Drive. They revealed that DOT has agreed to install a signal at 51st Street at the site of the new Publix.
• Agreed to hold a special meeting Monday, March 25, at 4 p.m. to consider contracts for street paving and operation of the 801 Ocean Drive event center.
• Appointed Dennis Maneri and Kate Seigler to regular terms and Marge Bell to an unexpired term on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
• Accepted the new mission statement of the Beach Preservation Advisory Board, which stresses education and community engagement.
• Tentatively approved a contract for $32,928 for a new band shell at Middleton Park.