County Land Use Plan.
The County is again going forward with a Land Use Plan Update. The planner-in-charge is Kathy Vinson, who has established her own planning company. As the Planning Commission prepares to look at the policies, Crossroads has sent the following letter to the members of the Commission.
“As the County moves forward with the development of a new Land Use Plan (LUP), Crossroads asks you to consider the following. The purpose of doing a LUP is to direct the growth of the County for the next few years. We are suggesting policy statements which we believe will direct that growth in a way that will truly benefit the County.
Protecting water quality in the County is essential if we are to attract development, provide greater economic opportunity and retain the quality of life that makes Carteret County such a great place to visit or live and work. The economic impact of tourism, retirement and fishing is so great that we must do everything possible to maintain the environment that makes these things work. At the same time, water quality in our sounds and estuaries continues to decline, as evidenced by the continuing decrease of waters open to shellfishing and the fact that some of our swimming waters are so polluted from time to time that a swimming advisory must be issued. There is no longer any doubt that nonpoint source (NPS) pollution or stormwater runoff is a major cause of this loss of water quality.
We suggest that the following policy statements be included in the plan:
1. The County should work toward zoning of the unzoned portion of the County. (We recognize that this is unpopular in some areas but both environmental and economic organizations have endorsed zoning as a way of achieving sound growth.)
2. In Carteret County, any development requiring a CAMA permit will be considered “low-density development” only if it has 12% or less built upon area. ‘Stormwater Controls’ are required for any development with built-upon area of greater than 12%.
3. Drainage from developed land areas shall have rate of flow and volume characteristics as near to pre-development conditions as reasonable.
4. Carteret County encourages the use of monitored pilot projects using advanced technology to treat stormwater runoff.
5. All plans for increasing sewage treatment capacity (including central systems, package treatment plants and septic systems), based upon projected population growth, must recognize the secondary pollution arising from growth induced by increased treatment capacity and must assure that the assimilative capacity of coastal lands, wetlands, and waters to absorb point and non-point source pollution is not exceeded.
6. Carteret County encourages the use of monitored pilot projects using advanced technology for wastewater treatment in areas not suitable for septic tanks.
7. Carteret County will identify and obtain Federal and State grants to implement a program of identifying, mitigating, and upgrading all failing or failed septic systems in the County.
8. Carteret County encourages substitution of ‘Living Shorelines’ for conventional bulkheads wherever possible.
We thank you for the opportunity to present these views and we would be happy to discuss them in more detail. It is essential that we take additional steps to preserve the water quality of the County if we are to expand our economic base and preserve the quality of life that we enjoy in Carteret County.
Board of Directors, Carteret County Crossroads”
We hope that the Commission will carefully consider these suggestions. If you have a chance to talk to any of the Planning Board Commissioners, please let them know that you consider the LUP an important document that can help the County maintain an environment that will encourage quality economic development.
We have all heard about urban myths—those stories that a lot of folks believe are true but which are false. Environmental myths also abound. Here are a couple of examples:
“Most of the pollution on the coast comes from upstream—from Raleigh or the mountains.” This just isn’t so. The majority of the pollution of our sounds and estuaries comes from runoff from adjoining land. The water draining into our sounds comes from the creeks and ditches that arise on the adjacent property. Anyone perpetrating this myth is only trying to escape responsibility for local action to lessen pollution.
“If regulations include a 10% (or 15%) impervious limit, many lots will be unbuildable.” Those arguing this fail to mention that whenever impervious limits are included in regulations, they also allow for higher impervious surfaces, if engineered stormwater controls are provided. So, if you must have more than the required impervious surface, you can still build—you just have to control stormwater runoff with engineered structures. The simplest way to control runoff is to provide for natural infiltration, as is accomplished with low impervious surfaces. But it can also be accomplished with engineered controls.
Ditches and Development.
Recent drainage problems in Old Beaufort Village led homeowners there to attend the Beaufort Planning Board meeting to protest a proposed expansion in Phase V of the development. In order to get a better understanding of the situation, your editor talked to John Young, Public Works Director for Beaufort, who kindly gave me a very interesting tour of the drainage ditches serving the Beaufort area.
When the area right outside the town was farmland, ditches were dug to drain the land so it could be farmed. Then several things happened. The farms are being converted to developments with a huge increase in impervious surface. The ditches outside the development have become the receivers for the drainage from developed areas. It appears that in many cases, the ditches are not cleaned and maintained as they were when they served only the farms. The net result is that the drainage system for removing surface runoff from much of the land being developed outside Beaufort is grossly inadequate and everyone is unsure whose responsibility it is to improve and maintain the system. Not only are we polluting our estuaries, we are greatly increasing the chances of dangerous flooding from big rainstorms.
We have several suggestions that might alleviate the situation if adopted.
First, the town should map the entire drainage system serving the town, including estimates of carrying capacity. Plans must be made to improve all the town ditches and maintain them properly
Second, the Planning Board and the Town should establish standards for drainage channels serving new developments. This should include standards for existing drainage channels that will be impacted by new development as well as the drainage system in the development itself. It is entirely reasonable to expect a developer to improve drainage channels that serve his development as well as to have adequate drainage channels in the development itself.
Third, in setting standards, an effort should be made to increase safety, improve appearance and provide for infiltration. For example, if drainage ditches were made shallower, wider and grassed they could infiltrate some of the runoff and would have the capacity to handle much larger volumes in case of big storms. They would also be much easier to maintain.
Fourth, the Town should introduce a system for routinely maintaining all ditches within the town and require new developments to maintain their ditches.
Fifth, the Town should adopt standards requiring new developments to deliver no more runoff to the boundaries of the development than pre-development. This would perhaps require BMPs such as infiltration ponds, sedimentation ponds, rain gardens, etc. The object would be to decrease the pollution pouring into the drainage systems and eventually into our estuaries, particularly the Newport River. The Newport River is in danger of being completely closed to shellfishing if runoff is not controlled.
These seem like reasonable requirements for new development. We cannot allow excess runoff resulting from increased impervious surface to be dumped into an inadequate drainage system that is destroying our water quality and threatening our communities with extensive flood damage.
We all get a lot of announcements about events of interest. Recently, we have been circulating to members of our Board and other interested parties an “Enviro Calendar” with announcements of interest to those concerned about the environment. Since we send this out once a week by e-mail, we can easily include others. If you would be interested in receiving our Enviro Calendar, just drop a line to email@example.com and we will add you to the mailing list.
We ask that you carefully look at the first line of your mailing label. If it shows that dues are due or that this is your “Last Newsletter”, please send in your dues. Crossroads depends entirely on your contributions and all our work is done by unpaid volunteers. We need your support.
New Board Member.
We welcome Dr. Robert Coles to the Board of Directors. Bob is a local orthopedic surgeon who has lived in Morehead with his family for 4 years and in North Carolina for 16. Bob developed an interest in the environment and coastal issues while growing up in Concord, Massachusetts, home of naturalist Henry David Thoreau. Before going to medical school, he majored in Biology at Harvard, with a focus on Ichthyology, Ecology, and Oceanography.