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TOWN OF DUCK

PLANNING BOARD

REGULAR MEETING

July 11, 2007

 

The Planning Board for the Town of Duck convened at the Duck Municipal Offices at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 11, 2007.

 

Present were Chairman Ron Forlano, Vice Chair Jon Britt, John Fricker, and Joe Blakaitis.

 

Absent:  Claiborne Yarbrough.

 

Also present were Council Liaison Denver Lindley, Jr., Director of Community Development Suzanne Cotellessa, New Director of Community Development Andy Garman, Building Inspector Cory Tate, and Zoning Technician Sandy Cady. 

 

Others Present: Olin Finch and Willo Kelly.

 

Chairman Forlano called to order the Regular Meeting of the Planning Board for July 13, 2007 at 6:35 p.m. 

 

PUBLIC COMMENTS

 

None.

 

OLD BUSINESS

 

C.  Consideration/Recommendation of ZTA on Driveways and Parking

 

Director Suzanne Cotellessa was recognized to speak.  Director Cotellessa stated that this was one of two items that were ready to be brought forward for recommendation to Council.  She summarized the ordinance as follows:

·        Parking spaces would be required to be improved with gravel. Gravel areas would need to be bordered to keep gravel on the property.  If there is a topographic issue, the Director of Community Development may approve an alternate surface that could consist of concrete, asphalt, gravel or pavers. 

·        Parking spaces could be stacked outside of the 12-foot wide required drive aisle.

·        For single-family development, driveway access at the property line could be no wider than 20 feet.

·        The width of the driveway and parking area could not exceed seventy-five percent (75%) of the lot width. 

·        As the Board requested at the last meeting, language was included which would provide grandfathering for legally existing homes or homes under construction as of August 1, 2007.

 

Director Cotellessa stated that the size of parking spaces and number of spaces required would not be changed, nor would it affect the size of the driveway.  She thought there may be some issues with regard to the requirement for gravel parking spaces.

 

Chairman Forlano asked the Board for their comments.

 

Member Fricker asked for a summary of the issues with respect to requiring gravel parking spaces.  Director Cotellessa thought the issue was a matter of preference as people may prefer concrete over gravel.  She stated that if the homeowner is using concrete on the site, it is not translated into the pool deck or house.  She stated that by requiring gravel parking spaces, it would not reduce the amount of concrete (coverage) on the site because this can now be placed elsewhere.  She thought it was a matter of personal preference as well as making a determination when topography was extreme.  Member Fricker stated he had some minor, detailed comments that were more editorial in nature.  He stated that Page 2, subsection C of the ordinance has new text; “loose stone surface”.  He suggested amending the initial phrase to say “…graded and improved with loose stone (gravel)…” for consistency. He asked for an explanation of Page 3, Section E regarding access to driveways as it didn’t address the issue except to get emergency vehicles to the house.  Director Cotellessa explained it was an item that was subject to discussion a few years ago when the ordinance was drafted.  She stated that there are some homes on the oceanfront that have driveways that are not pulled toward the house.  Instead, a walkway is improved from the edge of the driveway up to the house.  She stated that she understood it was done that way for emergency medical technicians to get a gurney down the walkway to the house.  Member Fricker asked what the Fire Department’s view was with regard to having a lot where an emergency vehicle cannot drive up to the house.  Vice Chair Britt stated that as long as there is a walkway, it works for the Fire Department.  He stated that the Fire Department rarely is able to drive up to a house due to the cars in the driveway.

 

Chairman Forlano questioned the insistence of gravel for the parking area since it may cause heartburn for some homeowners.  He asked how difficult it would be to waive the gravel requirement if this ordinance is passed.  Director Cotellessa stated that if the ordinance was passed, the homeowner would be required to obtain a variance to put in something other than gravel, but they would have to prove a hardship which would be difficult.  Chairman Forlano understood the Board’s intent but felt it was draconian to insist on loose stone when there were other materials that could be used that are permeable.  Director Cotellessa stated that the ordinance has an incentive to use gravel as it is not counted against lot coverage.  She thought the requirement was an aesthetic one.  Chairman Forlano stated he would not like to see concrete but felt it was severe to insist upon one form of surface material.

 

Vice Chair Britt asked if the Board should add language to include pavers.  Chairman Forlano stated that this was what he was looking for.  He stated he wasn’t in favor of concrete but anything other than concrete was fine.  Vice Chair Britt agreed.

 

Member Blakaitis thought that since the issue evolved as an aesthetic consideration, it would be restrictive to require only gravel.  He felt there needed to be flexibility.  He agreed that pavers should be allowed as part of the language.  He stated that the issue of the width of parking spaces was not addressed in the ordinance.  He asked if the Board had discussed it at a previous meeting.  Director Cotellessa stated that the Board had discussed both width and length of spaces but there wasn’t a directive to change it.

 

Member Fricker pointed out that at the last meeting, the Board agreed they liked the language in the ordinance with no changes.  He wondered if the Board could come to a consensus to allow pavers as opposed to gravel.  Chairman Forlano thought the Board agreed that they wanted to remove concrete. Member Blakaitis stated that if it is purely aesthetic, why should it be limited to gravel.  Director Cotellessa stated that the Board could consider language that states: “…required parking spaces shall be graded and improved with loose stone (gravel), porous pavers, or similar semi-permeable materials.” 

 

Member Blakaitis stated that various materials were mentioned for driveways.  He asked why Gravelpave could not be added as a material.  Director Cotellessa suggested the Board look at a generic name for Gravelpave.  Member Blakaitis agreed.

 

Vice Chair Britt stated that he was happy with the additions to the ordinance.

 

Olin Finch of 116 Sandy Ridge Road was recognized to speak. Mr. Finch stated that it was a good idea for the Board to add pavers. 

 

Director Cotellessa asked the Board how they felt about porous paving.  Chairman Forlano stated it would get back to the aesthetic aspect. Vice Chair Britt agreed.

 

Willo Kelly of the Outer Banks Homebuilders Association was recognized to speak. Ms. Kelly stated she was concerned about the ordinance initially but with the concrete drive aisle being allowed, she did not have any real issues.  Ms. Kelly asked if pavers were a percentage of lot coverage.  Director Cotellessa stated that gravel was not considered porous lot coverage.  She stated that loose stone (gravel), porous pavers, the generic equivalent of Gravelpave or similar semi-permeable materials are not included as porous paving materials.

 

Member Blakaitis asked if the Town would be setting a trap for itself.  Director Cotellessa stated she did not think it would be a trap.

 

Member Fricker moved to send the draft zoning ordinance amendment of the Town of Duck regarding residential driveways and parking areas to Council for consideration.  Vice Chair Britt seconded.

 

Motion carried 4-0.

 

A.  Worksession/Discussion on Building Height (TC ref. 1/24/07)

 

Director Cotellessa stated that the Board was still in the discussion phase with regard to the issue.  She stated that the technical issues involved the free and clear of obstruction requirements in the Town’s flood damage prevention regulations and how this may impact the height and design of structures.  She stated that she wanted the Town’s Building Inspector and Certified Floodplain Administrator, Cory Tate, to help the Board understand this issue.  She stated that Building Inspector Tate is interested in making sure the ordinance is very clear on what free and clear of obstruction means to building in coastal environments.  She stated she would like to jump into the discussion on free and clear of obstruction and what it means for building in high hazard flood zones. 

 

Building Inspector Cory Tate was recognized to speak.  Building Inspector Tate stated that one of the most difficult flood ordinance related issues has been the interpretation of free and clear of obstruction.  He stated that FEMA defines an area of high hazard as one that is subject to wave action greater than three (3) feet.  He stated that when the FEMA regulations were designed, ninety percent (90%) of the oceanfront properties in the United States did not have the high natural elevations of the oceanfront lots in Duck.  He stated that FEMA has determined that the flood protection level, or base flood elevation, should be at twelve to fourteen (12 – 14) feet above mean sea level for the oceanfront areas in Duck.  He stated that FEMA regulations discourage ground floor living space.  He noted that many of the oceanfront properties in Duck are in VE12 flood zones but many homes have a ground elevation of sixteen to twenty (16 – 20) feet.  He mentioned that FEMA clearly states that even if the ground behind the primary frontal dune is above the base flood elevation, it does not remove the requirement that the structure be elevated off the ground so that the area under the structure is free and clear of obstruction.  He stated that FEMA does not define what free and clear of obstruction means when the elevation behind the dune is above base flood elevation.  He stated that the problem comes from the way the Town measures the height of a house, which is determined by measuring from the adjacent grade or averaging the four (4) corners of a house that is built into the existing topography. He stated it makes it difficult to construct a standard Outer Banks type house (three floors of living space on a slab and piling foundation) when clearance is required under the house and height is measured from grade. He stated that the local ordinance is where flood damage prevention begins and ends.  He added that the FEMA regulations are suggestions. He stated that whatever the Town passes has to be approved by FEMA before the Town can enact it as an ordinance.

 

Building Inspector Tate cautioned the Board that if the Town passes an ordinance that is too lax in restrictions, it could cause the Town to lose its ability for the residents to purchase federally backed flood insurance which is heavily subsidized.  He stated that staff is trying develop reasonable standard for free and clear of obstruction.  He stated that some jurisdictions have relied on requirements from the building code.  He stated that FEMA defines the ocean high hazard area as one that is subject to wave action greater than three (3) feet. He didn’t think the Town needed to go as high as three (3) feet, but something reasonable could be a compromise between grade level and three feet.

 

Director Cotellessa asked Building Inspector Tate to explain how a two (2) foot free and clear of obstruction requirement affects the height of a house measured from the ground level.  Building Inspector Tate stated that it was his recommendation to use twenty-four (24) inches above adjacent grade in situations where the ground elevation is above base flood elevation.  He stated that if this were used, the height of the bottom girder would be established at twenty-four (24) inches above grade.  This would add an additional two (2) feet of height to the finished floor of the first level.  He stated that since the height of the house is measured from adjacent grade, four (4) feet of height would now be taken from the house (two feet free and clear, plus two feet for the structural members) in order to establish the free and clear of obstruction, making it difficult to build a three (3) story home under these requirements.

 

Member Fricker asked if three (3) story homes should be built on the oceanfront.  Building Inspector Tate stated that the idea is discourage ground level living space.  He stated that you might achieve the same size house using two levels since some of the parking could be placed under the house.  He stated that the footprint would be larger but it could be used for parking.

 

Member Fricker asked what would happen if the Town were to adopt too lax of an ordinance with regard to the amount of free and clear of obstruction; would it lose its coverage? Building Inspector Tate stated that he was correct.  Member Fricker asked what his basis was for his comments.  Building Inspector Tate stated it was brought out by communities that have lost their ability to obtain flood insurance.  Member Fricker asked if there were any specific municipalities that have lost their ability to obtain flood coverage.  Building Inspector Tate stated that Carova Beach has areas where a lot of construction has taken place over the years.  He stated that some of the areas were designated as a CoBRA (Coastal Barrier Resources Act) Zone, which meant the Federal government could declare it environmentally sensitive and discourage development at all costs.  He noted that Congress has to designate an area as a CoBRA Zone and once an area is designated as such, owners cannot obtain federally backed flood insurance in those areas. 

 

Building Inspector Tate stated that the NFIP says the Town has to enforce free and clear of obstruction, but the Town does not have a definition for it.  He stated he was asking the Planning Board to recommend to the Town Council a definition of free and clear of obstruction. Member Fricker asked where the two (2) feet came from with regard to the interpretation. Building Inspector Tate stated that FEMA’s model ordinance has recommended the two (2) feet with regard to coastal construction.  He noted that FEMA’s regulations were written to deal with the bulk of properties however; Duck and Currituck County have more problems with free and clear of obstruction because of elevations.

 

Member Fricker asked if there was a correlation between estimated wave heights and the point on the structure where the greatest force will occur.  Building Inspector Tate stated that the higher the wave was, the higher the impact on the structure would be.  He recommended that the two (2) foot would be a reasonable requirement but thought the ordinance would need to be amended so the Town could measure the height of the house from somewhere other than adjacent grade.  He stated that the advantage would be that it would make the structure safer and less likely to be damaged during storm events.  He thought it would be in the community’s best interest to amend the ordinance so height is measured from the lowest horizontal member instead of adjacent grade.  Chairman Forlano clarified that by taking height from the lowest horizontal member, it would take two (2) feet out of the house.  Building Inspector Tate stated he was correct.  Chairman Forlano asked if it would cause problems with regard to roof lines.  Building Inspector Tate stated it would make them flatter in order to achieve the thirty-five (35) foot height limit.

 

Director Andy Garman was recognized to speak.  Director Garman stated that if this recommendation were adopted, it would be essentially the same as an instance where natural grade is below base flood elevation and the house is raised so that the bottom of the girder is at the base flood elevation.  Building Inspector Tate agreed and stated it would not penalize homeowners for having a lot where the natural grade is above the base flood elevation and would also give the Town a way to meet the intent of the Federal regulations with a flood damage ordinance is consistent and fair.

 

Chairman Forlano asked how new were these regulations?  Building Inspector Tate stated that they have been in effect since September 20, 2006.  Chairman Forlano clarified that most of the homes on the oceanfront with solid foundations on the first floor would not be allowed according to the new regulations.  Building Inspector Tate stated that the North Carolina Building Code requires a pile foundation for homes built with pilings sunk sixteen (16) feet below adjacent grade or five (5) feet below mean sea level, whichever is higher.  He stated that there still has to be an area under the house where waves can pass without encountering an obstruction.  He stated that FEMA recommends pilings that are embedded deeply in the ground as well.

 

Chairman Forlano stated that his concern was if there were homes with hard structures on the lower level.  He asked if FEMA or NFIP would come in and tell the homeowners that their flood insurance would be lost because of it.  Building Inspector Tate stated that this would not happen since FEMA relies on regulations that were in effect when the house was constructed, unless there has been a substantial improvement to the structure.  He stated that FEMA defines substantial improvement as one that exceeds fifty percent (50%) of the value of the structure.  He stated that the good thing about Duck’s flood damage prevention ordinance was that the Town does not have a cumulative requirement.  Director Cotellessa noted that Building Inspector Tate’s comments applied to building permits and insurance.

 

Olin Finch of 116 Sandy Ridge Road was recognized to speak.  Mr. Finch asked if three (3) foot wave action was above sea level or the ground elevation.  Building Inspector Tate stated that when wave analyses are done for coastal construction, a three (3) foot wave ramp up is taken into consideration with a three (3) foot wave build up.  He stated that during a storm event there is storm surge, which brings the height of the water up higher than what it is normally.  He stated that when there is extreme wave action, water carries the sand back towards the ocean.  He stated that eventually the surge reaches the structure, which is why three (3) feet for wave action is not measured from sea level.  Mr. Finch pointed out that the base flood elevation is twelve (12) feet above sea level to account for hurricane surge and wave action. He wondered what FEMA thought of oceanfront lots that were six (6) feet above sea level where the bottom of the house was at twelve (12) feet.  He asked what the significant difference was between that and a house that is built on a dune that is twenty (20) feet above sea level.  He asked what the extra two (2) feet would accomplish.  Building Inspector Tate stated it would give an area for water to pass under the house.  He stated that people need to be able to obtain flood insurance and FEMA concedes that there are possibilities where wave action could high enough where the two (2) feet could make a difference.  He stated that FEMA wants houses free and clear of obstruction.  He asked the Planning Board to consider what it means for the citizens to be able to obtain flood insurance.

 

Vice Chair Britt asked if there have been any municipalities that use a number less than two (2) feet and if FEMA was okay with that.  Building Inspector Tate stated that the Town of Kill Devil Hills has one (1) foot free and clear of obstruction.

 

Member Blakaitis asked if they still regulated the height of the house.  Building Inspector Tate stated he wasn’t sure. Director Cotellessa thought FEMA had to approve the height of the house. 

 

Willo Kelly asked how much extra it would cost to add one (1) foot to the house.  Olin Finch thought it wouldn’t sway anyone.  Building Inspector Tate stated that there is a way to build a house to gain one (1) foot by building a boxed girder within the floor joists.  Mr. Finch stated that if people built that way, they would lower their homes to base flood level.  He pointed out that Kill Devil Hills is the only municipality that wants one (1) foot above average grade.  He didn’t think it gave them a lower flood insurance rating. He stated that FEMA only looks at the fact that the lowest structural member is built at base flood level or higher.  He stated that freeboard is allowed and is defined as any distance above base flood elevation.  Building Inspector Tate pointed out that the Town of Southern Shores has a two (2) foot freeboard requirement.  Mr. Finch stated that this was done as a community effort to obtain a lower CRS rating.

 

Building Inspector Tate mentioned that FEMA’s rules state that regardless of how high the ground is behind the dune, the house has to be free of obstruction or has to be constructed with breakaway walls.  He stated that owners have the option of building a home with ground floor enclosures as well as having walls designed by engineers so that they will break away under pressure exerted by a design flow.

 

Member Blakaitis asked if breakaway walls were a substitute for freeboard.  Building Inspector Tate stated that it wasn’t.  He stated that if there is a ground floor enclosure, an owner can build the slab so it would break up once the sand comes under it as well as having the walls give way when impacted by the force of waves.  He stated that there is problem with that; there cannot be any utilities in the breakaway walls, which could be inconvenient for ground floor living.  He reminded the Board that the building code and the flood damage regulations are driven by the insurance industry.

 

Member Fricker thought it was more than that.  He asked if the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was subsidized by every taxpayer in the country.  Building Inspector Tate stated it was.  Member Fricker stated that the country is subsidizing bad construction decisions that are made by oceanfront homeowners all along the Atlantic coast.  He stated that it was clear that FEMA does not intend for the ground level to be habitable.  Building Inspector Tate stated that the ground floor could be used for entry, storage or parking.  Member Fricker asked if an owner that encloses an oceanfront ground floor as habitable space is violating a Federal law.  Building Inspector Tate stated he was correct.  He noted that insurance premiums for flood insurance are higher in V zones that have ground floor living space regardless of whether it meets the free and clear of obstruction.

 

Olin Finch didn’t think there was such a thing as a ground floor enclosure.  He stated that it is either above base flood level or below it.  He stated that what the Board is calling ground floor are areas that are below base flood level.  Building Inspector Tate stated that ground floor areas were areas that sit on the ground.  Mr. Finch stated that FEMA does not address it.  He asked Building Inspector Tate to show him.  He stated that everything is addressed as either above base flood level or below it.  He stated that it doesn’t say that people cannot build a ground level if they are above base flood level.  Building Inspector Tate pointed out that nothing could be built below it.  Mr. Finch stated that FEMA states that there cannot be habitable areas below base flood level.  Building Inspector Tate stated that there was a difference between having an enclosure and having habitable space.  Mr. Finch stated that he was not discussing enclosures, but only habitable space where Building Inspector Tate is requiring two (2) feet of elevation above the ground.  He stated it was a different issue.  He stated that FEMA states for National Flood Insurance purposes, an enclosure is defined as an area partially or totally enclosed by rigid walls which has finished heated space.  He pointed out that if a house is sitting on a dune twenty (20) feet above sea level, it wouldn’t matter if the lowest structural member was at grade or not.  He stated that it only mattered that it was above base flood level and free and clear of obstruction.  Director Garman, Chairman Forlano, Director Cotellessa and Building Inspector Tate all stated that Mr. Finch was incorrect. 

 

Member Fricker pointed out the lowest floor still has to be free and clear of obstruction.  Olin Finch stated that if the structure is below base flood level, it would have to have breakaway walls and could not be a rigid enclosure.  Building Inspector Tate stated that people still have to meet the free and clear of obstruction requirement.  Mr. Finch stated that he was not arguing the free of obstruction requirement; he stated that sand, landscaping and common ground were not defined as obstructions.  Building Inspector Tate stated that fill is not allowed in a V zone.  Director Cotellessa noted that Building Inspector Tate has been interpreting FEMA’s rules as the floodplain administrator.  She stated that he has consistently been interpreting the rules.

 

Member Fricker asked if the issues (height and free of obstruction) were separate or intertwined.  He asked if the Board could make a decision to support Building Inspector Tate’s recommendation for free of obstruction without addressing the other issue regarding measuring building height.  Building Inspector Tate stated that they were separate issues but one was dependent on the other.  He stated that if the Board makes the decision to recommend the two (2) foot free and clear of obstruction requirement (or if they recommend one (1) foot for free and clear of obstruction), as the ordinance stands, he would still have to subtract it from the height of the house, making things more difficult.

 

Member Fricker suggested the Board try to resolve whether they wanted to specify a depth that is required and then decide whether they wanted to address height.  Building Inspector Tate suggested that the Board recommend to Town Council that they amend the flood damage ordinance to define free and clear of obstruction as it would be simpler to administer.  Olin Finch suggested that other jurisdictions be looked at to see how they have defined what free and clear means.  Building Inspector Tate stated that he has spoken to Tammy Riddle of North Carolina Emergency Management.  He stated that a number of jurisdictions in coastal North Carolina are using a two (2) foot free of obstruction requirement.  He stated that if it was the Board’s recommendation to suggest less than two (2) feet, at least it would give him something to go on.  He stated that it would be better to err on the side of being more restrictive than less.

 

Director Cotellessa stated that the base flood elevation is a minimum standard that FEMA has established.  She stated that other localities have a three (3) foot freeboard, which is three (3) feet beyond the minimum standard.  She stated that FEMA would be happy if the Town’s free and clear of obstruction was five (5) feet.  She stated that the minimum standard for free and clear of obstruction is two (2) feet in the model ordinance.  She stated that the reason the issue was brought up with respect to building height was because whatever number is chosen, would affect the building height.

 

Olin Finch asked if FEMA goes out of its way to define obstruction and what a breakaway wall is.  Building Inspector Tate stated that with respect to breakaway walls, there cannot be habitable space because utilities are prohibited.  Mr. Finch clarified that it was only for homes that were at or below base flood level.  Building Inspector Tate stated it was the area below the girder.  He stated that the free of obstruction requirement would still have to be met, including the homes above base flood elevation.  He stated that the bottom line was that water would need to be able to pass under the house.

 

Chairman Forlano stated that Building Inspector Tate had started off the discussion with the fact that the Board had two (2) responsibilities – to meet the FEMA requirements and to work with the citizens so they do not lose insurance.  He thought the Board needed to come up with a free and clear number which would work in favor of the community so they wouldn’t lose their insurance.  He thought there wasn’t any debate on the issue and that it was clear cut.  Building Inspector Tate stated that once free and clear of obstruction is defined, discussions regarding height would be easier to consider.

 

Chairman Forlano stated he would not have a problem with allowing thirty-five (35) feet from the bottom girder.  He stated that he did have a problem with insisting upon a free and clear area under a house.  Building Inspector Tate added that the Town would also be protecting the citizens once they rebuilt to be able to obtain flood insurance. Chairman Forlano agreed.  Vice Chair Britt agreed with Chairman Forlano’s comments.  He stated that he did not have a problem with the thirty-five (35) foot restrictions and that he did not have a problem with a one (1) foot requirement.

 

Building Inspector Tate stated that he was asking the Board for a recommendation that would balance all the interests involved.  Chairman Forlano noted that the NFIP would look more favorably on two (2) feet or even one (1) foot.

 

Council Liaison Lindley asked what the objection was with two (2) feet.  He asked if it changed the roof pitch.  Building Inspector Tate stated that it wouldn’t matter whether it’s measured from two (2) feet or five (5) feet if height is measured from the bottom of the lowest horizontal member.  Director Garman stated that the Town of Kill Devil Hills counts that one (1) foot against height. 

 

Olin Finch asked if loose sand was considered part of a breakaway wall.  Building Inspector Tate stated that breakaway walls are considered “sacrificial”.  He stated that people want to have habitable space on the ground floor, but if it will be habitable, it needs to be free and clear of obstruction.

 

Member Fricker clarified that sand used for landscaping was considered an obstruction by FEMA.  He stated that he would be uncomfortable voting unless there is some scientific data that refutes what FEMA says.  He thought free and clear meant just that.  Building Inspector Tate stated that if the Board decides to make a recommendation, the language should state either two (2) foot free and clear of obstruction or storage, parking and entry constructed with breakaway walls.  Member Fricker suggested “lattice” as well.  Building Inspector Tate agreed, but pointed out that it was already in the FEMA regulations.

 

Chairman Forlano asked if the Board should direct Director Garman to come up with a draft for the next meeting.  He stated that they are looking at two (2) feet.  Vice Chair Britt clarified that it was two (2) feet and that height was measured from the bottom of the girder.  Director Garman stated that Director Cotellessa had included a draft that spoke of measuring from wherever free and clear of obstruction requirements would be determined.  He stated that if two (2) feet is required, it would be measured from there.  Building Inspector Tate stated that the reference regarding adjacent grade would be measured from adjacent grade to the lowest horizontal member.  Director Garman stated they would use the language that is presently in the flood prevention ordinance.  Olin Finch asked how that would work.  Building Inspector Tate stated that the same averaging rules would apply.  He stated that the Board could also choose to measure two (2) feet from the highest adjacent grade.  He stated that the language is not without flaws.

 

Member Fricker asked what would happen if there isn’t a slab.  He asked if language should be included in the ordinance.  Director Garman stated that he would look into this and suggest it if necessary.  Building Inspector Tate stated that if the topography of a lot was to be changed, it could be done provided an engineer could provide an out that the finished grade would not substantially increase damage during a storm event.  Director Cotellessa stated that the Board could amend the language under Building Height.  She suggested “…height in non flood zones shall be measured…” as well as adding “…to the topmost side of the approximate center of the structure or to the finished grade where there is no ground level slab…”

 

Chairman Forlano thanked Building Inspector Tate for his time.

 

B.  Worksession/Discussion on Fill/Grading

 

Director Cotellessa stated that this was a continuation of the discussion for this issue.  She stated that the Board just finished reviewing height from finished grade. At the last meeting they talked about separating the issues of fill and height and trying to make it easier for builders to determine where they would measure height.  She stated that the draft language provided for some leveling on a lot, would allow filling of holes in the middle of a lot, and would define what the maximum allowances were for fill.  She stated that the Board has discussed minimal leveling.  In many cases a foot would be enough however there are exceptions to this.  She stated that the question is; when would it become important to insist on working with the topography versus reasonable leveling?  She stated that the Board’s intent was to allow reasonable leveling.  She stated that part of the discussion included the fill requirements for septic.  She stated that the present fill requirements have a maximum 3:1 slope.

 

Chairman Forlano felt that in Section B with regard to lot depressions that are interior to the lot, the distance should be ten (10) feet.  Vice Chair Britt agreed.  Chairman Forlano stated that the other item included the amount of fill that would be allowed for leveling of the building pad; the options included anywhere from one (1) foot to three (3) foot or the minimum amount required by the health dept. for septic plus one foot.  He stated he wanted to compromise and use two (2) feet.  He asked for discussion from the Board.

 

Member Fricker clarified that Chairman Forlano was stating that the maximum allowance of two (2) feet should be used instead of one (1) foot.  Chairman Forlano stated he was correct. Member Fricker clarified that the language should also state: “…or one (1) foot above the required minimum septic bed but in no case more than three (3) feet…”  Chairman Forlano disagreed.  He stated that the staff suggestion was one (1) foot, but said the other options were two (2) feet, three (3) feet, or one (1) foot above the maximum elevation of the septic field with a maximum of three (3) feet. He stated that he preferred two (2) feet above the required minimum septic field fill but in no case more than three (3) feet.

 

Director Cotellessa clarified that options were one (1) foot, two (2) feet, three (3) feet, or one (1) foot above the minimum required septic tank fill.  She stated that if septic fill amount was more than twenty-four (24) inches, the homeowner would be allowed three (3) feet. 

 

Member Fricker asked what would happen if the Town did not have septic bed fill issues to deal with.  He asked how much a homeowner could fill.  Director Cotellessa stated that if it was one (1) foot above the minimum required septic base fill and there isn’t any fill required, they would be allowed one (1) foot.  Member Fricker asked if three (3) feet of fill has ever been required for septic.  Director Cotellessa stated that the issue on the table was height.  Member Fricker pointed out that three (3) feet was measured in Part A as a generic statement and was then restricted and qualified by Section B and C.  Director Cotellessa agreed and stated that nowhere on a lot can three (3) feet of fill be put for any reason without going through a storm water management plan.  She stated that Section B states that if there is a hole on the lot, it can be filled as long as it not closer than ten (10) feet to the lot line. 

 

Member Fricker stated that he liked Chairman Forlano’s comments with respect to Paragraph B and the ten (10) feet.  He stated that he liked his idea of two (2) feet in Paragraph C, but thought if the height was coming out of the house, the Board needed to rethink the notion of one (1) foot above required minimum septic.  Director Cotellessa clarified that Sentence 1 only dealt with houses in a non-flood zone. She stated it was like that because the Board was changing the height definition to measure from finished grade.  Member Fricker thought they should leave Section C at two (2) feet with no reference to septic at all.  Director Cotellessa stated that there are different ways to define it.  Director Cotellessa stated that the number was established not just for septic flow, but to make it easier for allowing leveling and flexibility.  Member Blakaitis stated he wanted things to be easy for builders and thought this was the way to accomplish it.

 

Chairman Forlano suggested Director Garman come up with a draft for the Board to work on.  He suggested putting ten (10) foot for Section B and three (3) foot for Section C.

 


D.  Consideration/Recommendation of ZTA on Peat Pod Repair Areas as Lot Coverage

 

Director Cotellessa stated that the amendment would remove the requirement to include peat repair areas as lot coverage.  She stated that active peat areas would be counted but peat repair areas would not be.

 

Member Fricker moved to recommend sending the amendment on peat pod repair areas as lot coverage to Town Council as written.  Member Blakaitis seconded.

 

Motion carried 4-0.

 

Director Cotellessa clarified that each time the Board makes a recommendation on an ordinance; it contains references to the Town’s Land Use Plan as being consistent with the Plan.

 

E.  Worksession/Discussion on Fence Regulations

 

Director Cotellessa gave a short presentation on fence regulations.  She stated that the issue was for the Board’s discussion and consideration.  She stated there hasn’t been any recommendation or direction with regard to these regulations.  She thought the Board may not want to make any recommendations at this time, but as more building occurs, it may be something that should be considered.

 

Chairman Forlano asked if the fencing on top of a bulkhead was higher on the neighbor’s side or on the property owner’s side.  Director Cotellessa stated that the retaining grade would be the shorter side.  She stated that on lots that have fill with bulkheads to retain fill, the neighbor could see twelve (12) to fifteen (15) feet.  She noted that the Town no longer allows bulkheads to retain fill.

 

Zoning Technician Sandy Cady was recognized to speak.  Zoning Technician Cady pointed out that there were some pools that were bulkheaded in front of the house.

 

Chairman Forlano pointed out that some communities do not allow fencing from the front of the house.  He stated that in his subdivision, they could not honor that as people were putting pools in the front yards.  Director Cotellessa agreed.  She stated that there is no requirement to limit six (6) foot fences in the front yard, or to require a pool barrier to meet the front yard setback.  She suggested the Board think about limiting a front yard pool barrier to no more than forty-eight (48) inches high and to require that a pool barrier in the front yard meet the minimum setback for the principal structure.

 

Member Fricker stated he did not want to see a proliferation of six (6) foot fences going up on Duck Road.  He thought the Board should consider Director Cotellessa’s suggestion.  Director Cotellessa pointed out that a lot of the communities regulate fencing.  Director Garman stated that the Town of Nags Head limits fence height to six (6) feet in the rear yard and four (4) feet in the front yard.  He stated that they no longer require pool barrier fencing to meet principal building setbacks.

 

Chairman Forlano asked about the aesthetics of the fence.  Director Garman stated that Nags Head requires the good side of the fence to face outward.

 

Zoning Administrator Cady asked how fences were put up on the oceanfront in Nags Head. Director Garman stated that the front yard was toward the ocean in most cases.  Chairman Forlano asked where a fence would be put on a corner property.  Director Garman stated that where the driveway was would determine where the front yard would be.  Chairman Forlano asked about rear yards for corner lots.  Director Garman stated it could go to the property line.  Director Cotellessa suggested that language be provided for two (2) front yards and two (2) side yards and no rear yard. 

 

Member Blakaitis asked if fences were prohibited by any homeowner’s associations. Chairman Forlano stated he did not know of any.  Director Cotellessa stated that a lot of neighborhoods have restrictions on the front and rear.  Building Inspector Tate pointed out that some jurisdictions prohibit enclosing the front yard for emergency purposes.

 

Chairman Forlano suggested looking at a six (6) foot fence limitation in the rear yard and no fencing in the front yard except for pool barriers.  Director Cotellessa asked where the pool barrier would be placed.  Chairman Forlano stated it would be around the decking of the pool.  Director Garman asked if the suggestion should include corner lots having two (2) front and two (2) side yards.  Chairman Forlano stated it should.  Member Fricker felt there should be something that addresses visibility and sight distance.  Director Cotellessa pointed out that it was already in the zoning ordinance.

 

NEW BUSINESS

 

None.

 

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

 

A.  Planning Board Meeting June 13, 2007

 

Vice Chair Britt moved to approve the minutes of the Planning Board Meeting of June 13, 2007 as presented.  Member Blakaitis seconded.

 

Minutes for the Planning Board Meeting on June 13, 2007 were approved 4-0. 

 

OTHER BUSINESS

 

Member Fricker thanked Director Cotellessa for all of her hard work.  Vice Chair Britt thanked her as well and stated it was a pleasure working with her.

 

Chairman Forlano welcomed Director Garman to the Board.  He pointed out that the meetings were very informal and that he gives everyone an opportunity to speak.  Director Garman stated he was impressed with things so far and thought everyone was very engaged.  He stated he was pleased to be working for the Town.

 

STAFF COMMENTS

 

Director Garman stated that Zoning Administrator Cady had printed out a blog about the vegetation ordinance as well as an email the Town received from an individual regarding overdevelopment of single family homes as rental machines.  Zoning Administrator Cady stated she wanted to keep the Board aware of the issues that were coming in and proceeded to pass out the blog and email to the Board.

 

BOARD COMMENTS

 

None.

 

ADJOURNMENT

 

Chairman Forlano adjourned the meeting.

 

The time was 9:00 p.m.

 

 

Approved: ______________________________________________

                        /s/ Ron Forlano, Chairman


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