Save The Southern Shores Trees

By: Clair Sutton

SOUTHERN SHORES CITIZENS still say “Don’t cut our trees!”

Citizens of Southern Shores, after 2 months of lengthy and emotionally charged pleas with the Town Council, were stunned by the surprise vote on September 16th to continue the  Capital Improvement Plan and start tree removal on the streets in debate.  The contested road improvement program is  scheduled to take down 93 old hardwoods in the community at two locations. 

Citizens voiced their fear of the devastating effect of losing the Southern Shores shady maritime atmosphere and  irreversibly  changing the village character forever. Led by mayor pro tem Jodi Hess, the Council stood by their decisions to go with the town engineer’s extensive plan as is, saying their responsibility is to first make their CIP investment last by DOT standards, and second to satisfy traffic safety requirements. Their third and last consideration was keeping the ambience of the town.  

Facebook sites called Save Fairway Drive and Save Southern Shores have enabled the citizens to voice and discuss their concerns.  The residents feel the Council members do not listen to the voice of the community and have put spending the tax dollar ahead of the wants and needs of the more than 2700 residents.    Petitions of 220 people with pleading comments TO STOP, TO STUDY, and TO SHAPE the future, and a petition of 9 of the 10 Fairway residents affected and pleading to stop the work on Fairway  have been ignored by the council.  A gathering of 100 emotionally charged citizens, with another 25 locked outside the packed Pitts Center for the Sept 2 meeting was proof that the town wanted to be heard….  demanded to be heard.  “That’s why we moved here” says  Toni Tiberi-Radomski   “Why change something everyone loves if you don’t have to.  Spend that money where it is needed”

Hard hit Fairway Drive, a quiet meandering dead end street running along Duck Woods Country Club 5th fairway, will have the devastating effect of 50  eighty year old hardwood tree removed in a short 1200 feet long road way.  The proposed improvement plan straightens the little meandering  street, removes all the landscaped medians as well as the canopy of trees lining the quiet village lane.  

The intersection of South, North, and East Dogwood will lose 38 large trees according to the plan by town engineer Peter Anlauf. Citizens challenge that the extensive  curb and guttering in the proposal  for water shed is both unnecessary,  expensive and consumes their  trees.  Citizens argue that providing a wide intersection is not necessary and will only speed up tourist weekend “cut-through” traffic.

Many Southern Shores citizens contend that the CIP program has not been thought through sensibly nor laid out according to priority of streets that need attention. Dead end streets like Fairway and Gravey Pond  Lane are lightly traveled should  not require straightened  wide road beds and curb and gutter.  Residents of semi-complete Gravey Pond site the three re-dos they have had to endure during the road program upgrading their street.  “ And the street is so much hotter without the 35 shade trees they removed”, offers resident Cecilia Koeleveld in one of her pleas at the council meetings.  

Other residents question the necessity of elaborate DOT standard redo and consequence of tearing into the town setback damaging privately owned, expensively lawnscaped yards.  Citizens voice openly that they want the council to make plans to embrace and enhance the little narrow streets and cancel their program for the new wide  profiles designed for heavy, fast traffic. Town Manager Peter Rasco, at the September 16th meeting, announced he had looked at it again and could see no opportunity for change. 

With bids on the combined Fairway and Dogwood project  $100,000 plus higher than budgeted amount  and the disapproval of the direction and decisions surrounding the spending of tax dollars, the citizens will ask for a reexamination of the Capital Improvement Program.  If funds are not available for the elaborate plan, the citizen majority ask that the program be halted and a new direction to preserve the town’s ambience be the Council’s primary and immediate concern.

With the unhappiness of the citizens of Southern Shores  and the resistance of  Town Council , Town Manager and Town Engineer to compromise, the coming meetings promise to draw large emotional crowds.  The regular Town Council Meeting will be on October 5th in the Pitts Center.

Additionally, in another surprise bulletin over the weekend, Mayor Bennett announced a public forum to receive public comments, ideas, concerns and solutions for seasonal traffic control. It will be held on October 2 in the larger venue  Kitty Hawk School Gymnasium at 6pm. All citizens concerned about the future of Southern Shores, its ambience, its traffic, its trees and their tax dollar should make every effort to attend.     

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