ATLANTIC BEACH — The town council is in favor of reducing the speed limit on the Atlantic Beach high-rise bridge and the Atlantic Beach Causeway from 45 to 35 mph.
The council met for its regular meeting Monday at the town hall boardroom. During the meeting, the council approved 4-1, with Councilman Austin Waters opposed, a resolution in support of reducing the speed limit on the bridge and the causeway. The bridge is one of the two means of entering Atlantic Beach, and the causeway is part of the town’s commercial center.
The state maintains both, which means the N.C. Department of Transportation will make the final decision on their speed limits. The bridge and causeway’s speed limits are 45 mph year-round, while the speed limit along Highway 58 changes seasonally; it’s 35 mph during the summer tourism season and 45 mph in the off season.
Mayor Trace Cooper said the council’s causeway corridor steering committee came up with the idea to reduce the speed limit to 35 mph year-round on the bridge and causeway.
“They said slowing down the traffic coming off the bridge might be good for public safety,” the mayor said. Most of the council seemed to agree.
“To me, consistency would improve safety,” Councilman Rich Johnson said.
During public comment, M.J. Marsh, owner of Marsh’s Surf Shop, said he and other business owners have been concerned about the speed of traffic going past their shops.
“We think if it (the speed limit) was lowered to 35 mph, it would be better for our customers and for the causeway in general,” he said.
Mr. Waters, however, said he’s spoken with a number of residents and has gotten a different impression.
“My findings were the general public isn’t in favor of lowering the speed limit,” he said, “but if it’s a safety issue, I think we can push it through without public opposition.”
In response to another councilman’s comment that some drivers coming off the bridge go down the causeway well over the speed limit, Mr. Waters said he thinks the police department can handle enforcing the speed limit.
This wasn’t the only traffic safety item on the Monday meeting’s agenda. Town Planning and Zoning Director Michelle Eitner informed the council of a request being sent to NCDOT for crosswalk improvements on Fort Macon Road.
“We’re looking at some crosswalks around town where we want push-button signals,” she said.
These signals, which Ms. Eitner called actuated signals, would activate lights on signs warning approaching drivers to stop for pedestrians using the crosswalks.
Crosswalks across Fort Macon Road being considered for actuated signals are:
• Between Dunescape and the Island Beach & Racquet Club.
• Between Seaside Villas and the Doubletree Hotel by Hilton.
• Near the intersection of East Bogue Sound Drive.
• Near the intersection of Brooks Street.
Mr. Waters said he’s also heard requests from residents at the Southwinds Mobile Home Park and Bogue View Beach Park to put in a crosswalk across Fort Macon Road near the two trailer parks on Davis Boulevard.
In other news at the meeting, the council voted 4-1, with Mayor Pro Tem Rich Porter opposed, to continue a public hearing on a Unified Development Ordinance amendment to allow backfilling bulkheads. The public hearing was opened at the Monday meeting and will be continued until the next regular council meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23.
“This is an amendment we’ve been bouncing around this summer,” Ms. Eitner said. “This will allow 6 inches of backfill (for bulkheads).”
The existing UDO doesn’t allow any fill to be placed on residential lots. The ordinance was created to prevent a lot from being built up higher and causing stormwater to drain off of one lot onto neighboring lots.
During the hearing, former Councilman Eddie Briley said the proposed ordinance might put town officials at risk of civil suits being filed. Resident Mickey Stokes said he and his family have trouble with one of their neighbors, who built up their property before the ordinance prohibiting fill was created.
“Now we’re getting all their (storm)water,” Mr. Stokes said.
After receiving comments at the hearing, the council seemed to think the purpose of the proposed amendment had been to allow low lots to build up to the height of their neighbor’s lots, but not exceed it. Ms. Eitner said this wasn’t the case, so the council, with the exception of Mr. Porter, decided to continue the hearing to consider rewording the proposed amendment.
Mr. Porter was opposed to delaying action on the amendment due to concerns it would affect ongoing bulkhead projects.
The following also occurred at Monday’s meeting:
• The council unanimously approved a UDO amendment reducing the street setback in the MUN (multi-use neighborhood district) from 20 feet to 10 feet.
• The council unanimously approved a resolution to apply for a Coastal Area Management Act grant to pay for improvements to the Durham Avenue public beach access.
• During Town Manager David Walker’s report, the council unanimously approved two easements, a termination option and an agreement regarding sewer allocation – each with its own action – all to allow FMB at the Grove LLC to renew its permit for the package wastewater treatment plant at the Circle, a development district consisting of the property directly south of the Fort Macon Road/Atlantic Beach Causeway intersection and the surrounding neighborhoods. Mayor Cooper and Mr. Porter recused themselves as they own businesses in the Circle.
• The council unanimously went into closed session to consult with Town Attorney Derek Taylor on the matter of an appeal of a land disturbance permit at 204 Glenn St. No action was taken by the council after it came back into open session.
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.