The Down East Saga
Everyone must be aware of the struggle by the “down east” folks to protect their land and culture from destruction by rampant, uncontrolled development. They organized as Down East Tomorrow (DET) and asked the county for a moratorium on development east of the North River Bridge until some controls to protect water quality and the down east way of life could be put in place. After a long delay, the County Commissioners met on June 12 in work session (no public input allowed) to decide the issue. After trying to avoid a moratorium vote by suggesting that a new development ordinance would be better, a vote was taken. It was denied by a vote of 5 to 2, with Lynda Clay and Jonathan Robinson voting for the moratorium.
This action raises questions such as:
Did some of the commissioners have an undeclared conflict of interest?
Why was fear of lawsuits stated to be a deciding factor when similar moratoria have been successfully used in other counties?
If the commissioners are so concerned about preserving water quality, why not pass a “Conservation Ordinance” for the entire county?
Are the commissioners more concerned with supporting development than with protecting water quality?
After defeating the moratorium, the commissioners started to consider an overlay ordinance, the Down East Conservation Ordinance (DECO) that will ”protect the sensitive environmental areas located in the ‘Down East’ area of Carteret County” according to the outline prepared by the Planning staff.
The process to develop the DECO follows: Note all Planning Commission meetings are open to the public.
Components of the DECO suggested by the planning staff include:
Whether it can actually protect water quality depends entirely on the Planning Commission and the Board of Commissioners. The suggested outline must be strengthened if is to actually protect water quality.
Why not exclude wetlands in calculating impervious surface and lot size?
Why not include density and intensity limits—and perhaps give density credits for better stormwater management?
Why not use buffers of 75 feet that will give more protection than 30 feet?
Meanwhile the draft 2005 Land Use Plan (LUP) is still under review. The state has reviewed the LUP and found serious deficiencies. Strong public pressure is needed to get a better LUP to serve as a long-range guide to county growth.
Why did the County Commissioners remove several policies to protect water quality from the Planning Commission draft because they exceeded state standards, disregarding the fact that the LUP is supposed to be prepared for local conditions and is supposed to protect water quality?
Stormwater Runoff, Phase II, etc.
A recent Conservation Insider Bulletin, provided by the Conservation Council of NC, has the following report on a key environmental issue up for short session review.
“You may recall that the state Environmental Management Commission (EMC) passed new stormwater management rules (as required by federal clean water law) in 2003. A powerful development lobby group challenged the rules, which were vetoed by the state’s Rules Review Commission (RRC). In turn, the EMC challenged the RRC veto in court, and won a favorable Superior Court ruling last year. After an internal debate, the RRC backed away from the confrontation and approved the EMC stormwater rules.
In the meantime, however, the state legislature had approved its own version of stormwater rules in 2004, in order to prevent the state and its local governments from facing federal penalties. These legislative rules were stronger than previous state law but not as strong as the EMC new rules. As part of a compromise, the legislation provided that it would not pre-empt the EMC stronger version if the EMC won in court over the RRC.
When the EMC stronger rules subsequently won in court and were before the RRC for reconsideration, the developer lobby cried in alarm and appealed to the legislature. Thus, the 2006 legislative "short session" will have the opportunity to consider new action on stormwater regulation. Negotiations are underway among interested parties and a compromise may be recommended, but nothing is final yet”.
Another recent development is the introduction of Senate Bill 1566. This bill, as introduced, would require developments within ½ mile of shellfish waters to use engineered stormwater controls if built-upon area is greater than 12%.
Navy Sonar Range
Mark your calendar for a thorough discussion of this controversial project. It will be held at Duke Marine Lab Auditorium Monday August14, 2006 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Register before July 31 by calling 252-393-8185
Thank you to our newest Life Member, Nancy Veitch.
Congratulations to our newest Crossroads Board member, Jess Hawkins. Shortly after he was elected to the Board, we learned that he had been awarded the Order of the Longleaf Pine by Governor Easley. Jess recently retired from the NC Division of Marine Fisheries, where he spent his entire professional career. He held numerous jobs with Fisheries, most recently as liaison to the NC Marine Fisheries Commission and also to numerous advisory committees. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in zoology and has a Masters in Biology from East Carolina University.
Currently, he is waiting for confirmation of nomination to the federal Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
We are delighted to have him as a member of our Board and are looking forward to working with him on our local environmental problems.