Planning Board Plans for Self-Regulation

Jenny Scarborough

The current Ocracoke Development Ordinance regulates signs, but is rarely and unevenly enforced.

At Thursday's meeting, the Planning Advisory Board unanimously decided to not revisit that section of the code until island businesses weigh in. OCBA will lead the discussion of what signs are appropriate.

"They generated the problem. Let them tackle it," said co-chair Butch Bryan.

Social pressure is better than regulation, said board member and business owner Amy Srail Johnson.

"We've got to get the community to talk about what we're talking about," said co-chair Corky Pentz. "What is the consensus of the population?"

"People's got to advertise their business," said board member Jerry Midgett.

Ocracoke Station manager Sean Death was one of three island residents in attendance. Death said he received positive feedback from customers after adding flags promoting the food served at the convenience store. He is "all about" a discussion about signs. "I love the community working together," said Death.

All seven members of the board attended. All have lived on Ocracoke for at least 15 years. Several are lifelong residents and veterans of previous Planning Advisory Boards.

"The new members are not for regulating anything," observed Pentz.

"I don't like more regulations on top of regulations," concurred Bryan.

Chief Code Enforcement Officer Jerry Hardison was unable to attend, but he has been reading through the ODO and noting what he has trouble enforcing. If something isn't being enforced, it should be taken out of the ODO, said Midgett, who believes the board should "make it thinner instead of thicker."

Why is the code not being enforced? asked board member BJ Oelschlegel. "Does the county not want to come up against court cases? That's a problem."

The county has not always enforced its own laws. Sharon Justice recalled the time a private home was built on--or in, depending on your perspective--Silver Lake. Despite public outcry that wetlands were being illegally developed, the permits went through. It was "pure arrogance on the county's part," said Justice.

In the late 1980s a former building inspector issued permits for a net house on the harbor, knowing the owners intended to develop a restaurant that would not have been permitted.

The board needs to consider the ODO one piece at at time, clarify the language, and put some enforcement teeth in the regulations, said Bryan.

There hasn't been a house built in Swan Quarter in thirty years, observed Midgett. "Why doesn't Jerry [Hardison] spend more time over here?" asked Oelschlegel.

**This article previously mis-identified Jerry Midgett as Jerry Gaskill. The author regrets the error and will not make that mistake again.


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