Carteret County Crossroads

NEWSLETTER # 84, MARCH 2000 PO BOX 155, BEAUFORT, NC 28516. 252-726-6663

NEW MILLENIUM-NEW LOOK

Crossroads, still trying to provide the best possible environmental information to citizens, has set up a web site. Please take a minute to look for it at: www.carteretcrossroads.org/. You will find some of the reports done by Crossroads Board members, recent newsletters, links to other sites and other items that, we hope, will be helpful to you. It is still a work in progress so we would like to hear your reactions. What could we do to make it more useful to you? Incidentally, if you do not have personal access to the Internet, you can now get on line at the Public Library. We thank Board members Amanda Lail and Bruce McCutcheon and member Sally Anger for all the work involved in setting up the site.

If you have an e-mail address, please give it to us so that we can get information to you in this way. If you are a member and did not get our recent e-mail notice of the Fisheries Habitat forum, please send a message to: ihooper@mail.clis.com. This is the easiest way to get us your correct address. We will use e-mail to keep members informed of current items of interest. If you do not want to receive such information, let us know.

RULE MAKING

It seems to us that a disturbing trend is emerging in the way land use and environmental rules are made and enforced. We thought that the Legislature passed laws and the regulatory Commissions such as the Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) and the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) established rules to interpret and enforce the laws. The Commissioners make rules after public debate, expert testimony and input from professionals who will administer the rules. The various Divisions of the Department of Natural Resources such as the Division of Water Quality, Division of Coastal Management (DCM), Division of Water Resources, etc. implement the rules. It seems like a pretty good system.

So what has happened? A Commission proposes new rules after extensive discussion. Affected citizens or local government officials complain and the Commission backs down. Either those drafting the rules did not understand the impact of the rules or there was insufficient public input. What next? Hire a facilitator, and select "stakeholders" with various interests, such as environmentalists, developers, etc. This group then attempts to reach consensus. If a majority of the group wants to preserve the status quo (or worse) and the staff does not display strong leadership, is it any wonder that the resulting tentative rules do not really attack the problem?

The Commission, having committed to this flawed process, may adopt rules less effective than originally proposed. However, problems are still present. The proposed rules have to pass scrutiny by the Rules Review Commission and by the Legislature if legislators object to the rules.

Those with an economic stake in the outcome seem to be making the rules, rather than the citizens appointed to make rules in a non-biased, rational fashion. The wrong people in too many cases are making policy. Who suffers? The ordinary citizen who wants to live in a healthy environment.

ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSIDERATE GROWTH

If you could not attend the Annual Meeting, you missed one of our best. A distinguished panel of developers, university experts, local government planners and environmentalists gave us practical ideas on how we can have growth, protect the environment and enhance the quality of life of the citizens. The example of Currituck County was perhaps the most striking. Faced with a big demand for new home sites (partly due to rapid growth in southern Virginia) the county government first surveyed the citizens as to what they wanted in their community and then designed an Open-Space Zoning plan to meet the needs of the community. Development is planned to preserve open space, conservation areas, water-frontage, scenic views, etc. The lots in the development are fitted onto the land most suitable for building. Although the lots are smaller than previously allowed in the zoning area, they all border on open space and share water access, etc. Many benefits result. There is much less impervious surface; infiltration areas for stormwater runoff are much larger; and recreational and play areas are preserved. It works; home sites in such developments are selling for a premium. Everyone gains from good planning.

LOCAL PLANNING

Carteret County is developing a County Comprehensive Plan (CCP) to guide future development. The County formed a Citizen Steering Committee (including representation from Crossroads) and secured funding for the project. They are in the final stages of selecting a consultant to work with the Steering Committee to develop the CCP. We are all eagerly awaiting the outcome of this exercise. A good place to start might be to do as Currituck County did and make a thorough survey of just how citizens want their community developed and what is most important to them in planning how their community will look. We suspect that the people want economic development but not at the expense of environmental quality. We believe a good plan can assure both.

STATE LAND USE PLANNING

The CRC finally realized the Land Use Plans (LUPs) developed under the old process just did not protect water quality. So, in November 1998 they established a moratorium on new LUPs until improvements could be made. Then, as is the fashion these days, they set up a stakeholder group to study and revise the LUP rules. After several months of discussion and deliberation, it appears that little progress is being made. If you would like to follow the process, go the DCM web site: http://dcm2.enr.state.nc.us/, click on Land Use Plans and then on the CAMA Land Use Plan Review Team.

ESTUARINE SHORELINE PROTECTION

You may remember the intense discussion at the CRC about improved estuarine shoreline protection that occurred in 1989 and early 1999. Rules proposed by the CRC were bitterly opposed by developers and local governments concerned about restrictions on local development. In March of 1999 the CRC separated the proposals into two parts. They went ahead with a buffer rule and set up a stakeholder process to devise generally acceptable rules to increase protection of estuarine shorelines.

The 30-foot buffer rule was adopted by the CRC and has passed the Rules Review Commission. Unless the legislature intervenes, the rules should go into effect August 1, 2000.

The stakeholder group worked diligently to find acceptable ways to protect our shorelines. They completed their work in July of 1999 and gave the CRC a large list of recommendations. These have been accepted and several proposed items have been presented to the EMC for their rulemaking. The EMC has passed them on the EMC Water Quality Committee. If you want more details of what the CRC has done you can go to the DCM web site, click on Current Issues, then on Coastal Shoreline. A general review can be found under CRC Chairman Tomlinson's remarks and the Stakeholders report is available at this site. Future developments will be reported here. Meanwhile, our estuarine water quality continues to decline and the closed shellfishing waters increase.

CROSSROADS NEWS

At the annual meeting four Board Members were reelected for the coming three years. They are Dick Bierly, Irv Hooper, George Kunkle and Allyn Powell. Recently, John Wells resigned from the Board due to the press of other commitments. Thank you John for your work on the Board. We hope that you can rejoin us in the future.

Please look at your mailing label. The first line of the address gives the current status of your membership.

Members are welcome at all Board Meetings, held the second Thursday of each month at 7:30 PM in the Conference Room at the Duke Lab Auditorium.

Thank you to new Life Members John and Ginny Costlow, John and Patsy Wells, Don and Carolyn Hoss, Marion Smith, Mr. and Mrs. H. F. Van der Voort, and Nancy Dawson.