News

Currituck receives $1M grant to elevate homes

The State of North Carolina and FEMA have approved a hazard mitigation project grant of $1,040,864 to improve disaster resilience in Currituck County. The grant will be used to pay for the elevation of seven flood-prone homes in Corolla, Grandy, Barco, Moyock, Grandy, and Currituck. Funding from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program became available as the result of a federal disaster declaration following Hurricane Florence in 2018.

Because the homes are located in a Special Flood Hazard Area, they have a history of flooding from hurricanes and other storms. Elevating the homes to the Base Flood Elevation plus local freeboard requirements will help prevent the costly repetitive cycle of flood damage and repairs. The elevated structures will be placed on a range of possible foundations, specified by a licensed professional engineer during a feasibility study, and may include piles, columns, curtain walls with footings or concrete masonry units.

“Currituck County is pleased to accept Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds on behalf of these deserving families,” said Donald I. McRee, Jr., Interim County Manager/County Attorney. “The mitigation of repetitive loss properties is a priority of both the Outer Banks Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan and State of NC Hazard Mitigation Plan, and we are grateful for the opportunity to enhance our community resilience to coastal hazards.”

FEMA funds 75% of project costs, with the remaining 25% funded by the state. The Hazard Mitigation Grant program funds projects that help create long-term solutions to reduce risks from repetitive hazards, such as flooding. More information on North Carolina’s recovery from Hurricane Florence and other natural disasters is available from the NC Department of Public Safety.

Kemp settles into leadership role with Development Services

Since joining the county staff in early July, Kevin Kemp has effectively transitioned into his role as Currituck County’s Development Services Director, a newly-created position that oversees the offices for planning, zoning, code enforcement, permits, and building inspections. As part of a restructuring, the department formerly known as Planning and Community Development is now named the Development Services Department.

For the previous 10 years, Kemp served as the zoning administrator for the City of Virginia Beach. He hold’s a Master’s Degree in  architecture from the University of Michigan. His family of four have lived in Currituck for the past five years and Kemp and his wife have two daughters, ages 15 and 11.

“My family and I love the Currituck community and we are excited to grow alongside it,” Kemp said.

In his new position, Kemp has a wide range of responsibilities. These include managing a large staff, providing technical advice to the Board of Commissioners on all planning matters, developing and recommending policies, coordinating various planning activities with state and federal agencies, implementing county policies, and representing the county in meetings with developers, citizen organizations, and appointed boards. Within the revamped structure of the Development Services Department, Kemp expects the county to provide a high level of services as Currituck continues to grow.

“You will see a new name, but we have the same commitment to solid planning practices and encouraging growth that will benefit the
community. We want to use our department as the catalyst to coordinate with other departments and public agencies to realize a future for the county that is in harmony with our vision,” he said.

More information on the Development Services Department is available online or by calling 252-232-3055.

McRee to serve as interim manager

The Currituck County Board of Commissioners appointed County Attorney Ike McRee to serve as Interim County Manager following the departure of Ben Stikeleather. Stikeleather, who has been the County Manager since July 1, 2019, is leaving for a job in the private business sector. Stikeleather’s final day with the county is Friday, August 27, 2021, and McRee will assume his new role on August 28, 2021.

McRee’s service as Interim Manager will provide ample time for the Board of Commissioners to formulate a plan for hiring a permanent County Manager. During a special meeting on August 25, 2021, the Board received information on the hiring process from a representative from the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners.

McRee has extensive experience in local governments in North Carolina. He began his career as a local government attorney in May 1989, when he was appointed Currituck County Attorney. After continuing in that capacity for other county governments, McRee returned to Currituck County in 2008 when he accepted his current position as County Attorney.

McRee possesses considerable knowledge of county departments, procedures, daily operations, and local issues. His presence as the Interim Manager provides a seamless continuity for staff and citizens. He will serve in a dual role, continuing his duties as County Attorney while taking on added responsibilities as the Interim Manager.

The Board of Commissioners has tentatively scheduled a work session for September 7, 2021, to discuss the hiring of a permanent County Manager. Updates will be provided for the public as information becomes available.

Motorists should use caution in school zones

Students in Currituck County Schools began the new school year on August 23, 2021. Motorists throughout the county should be aware of school buses as they pick up and drop off students. Always use caution when driving near a school bus and be prepared to stop if the bus turns on its flashing lights.

Motorists may also experience slight delays when traveling through a school zone at certain times in the mornings and afternoons. The following areas may be congested with school traffic. The Currituck County Sheriff’s Office will have deputies at these locations to help facilitate traffic flow. Please slow down, use caution, and follow all directions of law enforcement.

Shawboro Elementary School (Shawboro Road/NC-34)

  • Delays between 7:15 a.m. and 8:00 a.m.; and 2:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m.
  • Alternate Routes if headed toward Camden/Elizabeth City:
    • Traveling North on the Caratoke Highway from South of NC-34 (Maple Road/ East Ridge Road)
    • Traveling South on Caratoke Highway from North of NC-34 (Snowden Road)

 

Moyock Elementary School (Tulls Creek Road)

  • Delays between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m.; and 2:00 p.m. and 3:15 p.m.
  • Alternate Route if headed toward Virginia on Tulls Creek Road:
    • Poyners Road, Guinea Road, Sawyer Town Road

 

Currituck County High School

  • Expect Delays on Caratoke Highway between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.; and 2:45 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.

Court sides with Currituck County in campground dispute

Currituck County received a favorable ruling from the North Carolina Court of Appeals on August 17, 2021, in a lawsuit involving a local campground.  The court’s decision reversed a 2020 ruling by the NC Superior Court and affirmed previous determinations made by the Currituck County Planning Department and the Currituck County Board of Adjustments.

In the case of 85’ and Sunny, LLC v. Currituck County, the owners of the KOA Outer Banks West campground in Waterlily were seeking affirmation of its claim to more campsites and the right to construct additional facilities on the property, including a swimming pool. In January 2019, Currituck County had determined that the property could have 234 campsites for RVs, trailers, or campers and a to-be-determined number of tent camping sites based on minimum campsite size. The county also determined that the owners could not build any additional facilities on the property.

After the campground was purchased in 2018 by 85’ and Sunny, the plaintiffs sought an increase to 314 campsites and 78 tent sites allowed on the property. It also sought permission to build a swimming pool, pool house, restrooms, and bathhouses. However, the Currituck County Board of Adjustments ruled in the county’s favor and denied each of the plaintiff’s requests.

The case went to the North Carolina Superior Court, and, in January 2020, it partly ruled in favor of 85’ and Sunny, LLC. The Superior Court found that the campground could have the larger number of campsites but could not build a swimming pool. Both parties appealed this decision to the Court of Appeals.

Now, the Aug. 17, 2021, ruling by the NC Court of Appeals reverses the Superior Court’s decision and finds that Currituck County was originally correct regarding both the number of campsites allowed and the disallowance of a swimming pool and other new facilities. The campground will be allowed 234 campsites for RVs, trailers, or campers and a tent camping area with the number of spaces to be determined based on a minimum campsite size. It will not be allowed to build a swimming pool or the other new facilities.

Currituck County is very pleased with the court’s ruling, as it proves that Planning Director Laurie LoCicero and her staff were accurate in their initial findings and procedures in 2019.

Currituck Airport to host “Aviation Day”

The public is invited to “Aviation Day” on Saturday, September 25 to celebrate aviation in our community and learn more about services offered at the airport. This special event is co-hosted by Currituck County and the Northeastern NC Women in Aviation Chapter, which is also celebrating “Girls in Aviation Day”. It will be held at the Regional Aviation and Technical Training Center, which is next to the Currituck Regional Airport.

This is a family-friendly event at the airport from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with free parking and admission.  Guests can tour the airport terminal building and enjoy aircraft on display, airplane rides, classic cars, featured airplane fly-ins, live music, food trucks, vendors, children’s games, and more.

The Regional Aviation and Technical Training Center is located at 107 College Way, Barco, NC, 27917.  An event rain date has been set for Sunday, Sept. 26. For more information or questions, contact the airport at 252-453-8032.

County Budget & Property Tax Rate Information For Citizens

Currituck County’s Operating Budget for the new fiscal year took effect on July 1, 2021. As property owners receive their tax bills and other bills from the county, they will notice that certain factors may impact monthly and annual bills.

Property Tax Rate:

Prior to adopting the operating budget, Currituck County completed a Tax Revaluation for 2021 that resulted in a countywide tax base of $7.9 billion. This represents an overall increase of approximately 20% in total property value.  Following the revaluation, the Board of Commissioners lowered the property tax rate from $0.48 to $0.46. This rate keeps Currituck County as one of the 9 lowest rates of all 100 counties in North Carolina.

In the previous budget, Currituck County had a “revenue neutral” property tax rate. This meant the county collected approximately the same amount of total property taxes as it collected the year before. Based on the 2021 revaluation, the revenue neutral tax rate would equal $0.4143.  But because of significant capital needs of Currituck County Schools, the tax rate was set at $0.46 to generate enough funding to meet these needs.  Our schools face many pressures due to unfunded state mandates on class sizes and the consistent residential growth throughout the community. The Board of Commissioners and Board of Education have worked together to develop a plan for managing this growth.

A property tax rate of $0.46 will generate $3,650,000 more than the revenue neutral rate. From this amount, $3,642,427 will be used for the following:

  • $1,292,427 for 12 additional teachers to meet new unfunded state mandates relative to class size; 10 teacher assistants; and 2.5 curriculum coaches.
  • $1,600,000 put into savings for construction of new elementary school that is planned to open in August 2025.
  • $750,000 put into savings to fund annual operating costs of the new elementary school.

The remaining $7,573 would be placed in the county’s General Fund.

FYI – Additional steps on the growth plan for Currituck Schools include the purchase of six mobile classroom units for the 2021-2022 school year, and expanding Moyock Elementary School and Moyock Middle School. These projects are already funded by savings the county accumulated in recent years and were not factored into the property tax rate.

Water and Sewer Utility Fees:

Currituck County had a comprehensive water and sewer rate study performed by Raftelis Financial Consultants, which was presented in March 2021. Four funds were analyzed: Mainland Water, Mainland Sewer, Ocean Sands Water and Sewer, and Southern Outer Banks Water System. This study helped the county develop a 10-year plan to ensure financial stability of each system.

Due to increasing operating expenses, maintenance costs, capital improvement needs, and system expansion, the rates will see an annual increase of 3.5% for the next 10 years for the Mainland Water, Ocean Sands Water and Sewer, and Southern Outer Banks Water System. For the Mainland Sewer system, there will be a 6% annual rate increase for the next 10 years.

The impacts to a customer’s utility bill for the fiscal year of July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022 are below (based on an average customer usage of 5,000 gallons per month):

  • Mainland Water: + $1.17 per month
  • Ocean Sands Water and Sewer: + $2.73 per month
  • Southern Outer Banks Water System: + $1.40 per month
  • Mainland Sewer: + $4.83 per month

Solid Waste Fees:

Raftelis Financial Consultants also completed a review of Currituck County’s solid waste funds for the mainland/Knotts Island and Corolla. This information was used to develop a 10-year plan to ensure financial stability.

Currituck County faces significant increases in operating expenses for the collection and disposal of solid wastes. This is not under the county’s control, as contractors which provide services have consistently raised prices. This is a national trend. To maintain current services, including the curbside collection of trash and recycling in Corolla, there will be a one-time annual rate increase of 40% for the upcoming fiscal year followed by an annual increase of 3.5% for the next 10 years.

The impact to customers for the fiscal year:

  • Mainland: + $81
  • Corolla: + $151

Moyock Township Watershed Improvement Service District:

The intent of the service district is to provide a comprehensive approach to storm water management in Moyock. This service district will collect a tax of $0.015 from property owners within the district to fund improvements and maintenance of nearly 90 miles of drainage ditches.  This will allow for systemwide improvements and help alleviate drainage problems in underserved areas.

Detailed information has been mailed to residents and property owners within the proposed district. The plan also includes the dissolution of three current, smaller districts: Guinea Mill, Northwest, and Moyock Watershed Improvement. A map of the new district can be found here.

Feedback Needed on Recommend Changes to Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides heating, cooling, crisis, and weatherization assistance. States are given broad latitude under block grant funding to design and operate their own programs, under certain restrictions.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is seeking public comment on the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program Block Grant Plan for Federal Fiscal Year 2022, which outlines how the federal LIHEAP block grant funds will be spent in North Carolina in federal fiscal year 2021-2022.

The revisions include:

  • Updated Federal Poverty Guidelines which are effective October 1, 2021. Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP), Crisis Intervention Program (CIP) and the Summer Cooling Program will operate on the 150% Federal Poverty Level temporarily for FY 22.
  • LIEAP Heating Program will allow the priority group of households with individuals 60 or older or disabled receiving DAAS services to start applying November 1, 2021 instead of December 1st.
  • Temporary Summer Cooling Program will begin July 1st – September 30th, 2022.
  • The maximum benefit amount for the Crisis Intervention Program (CIP) will be increased to $1,000 instead of $600 temporarily for FY 22.
  • Resources will not be counted temporarily for any Energy program for FY 22.

The plan may be viewed from August 16-20, 2021 at the following locations:

A virtual public hearing will be held Friday August 20, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. To register please use the link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/231815950985422091

Comments will be accepted until 5:00 p.m. on Monday, August 23, 2021. Comments can be emailed to Jasmyne Simmons at Jasmyne.Simmons@dhhs.nc.gov

Documents

Residents Encouraged to Stay Ready During Hurricane Season

Now that hurricane season has officially begun, Currituck County urges all residents and property owners to stay prepared in case a storm comes toward the region.  It’s always best to plan ahead and prepare during calm weather so you’ll be ready in case a storm comes our way. There are many things that can be done to help protect lives and property!

Put together an Emergency Safety Kit – A good emergency/evacuation kit should be able to sustain you, your family, and pets for a
minimum of 3 days. Items to put in your kit include:

  • One gallon of water per day, per person
  • Non-perishable foods
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • First aid supplies
  • Prescription medications
  • Phone charger
  • Infant items, such as diapers
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Spare clothes and blankets
  • Pet food, water, and supplies
  • Cash

Plan how to Prepare Your Home – Make checklists of actions you’ll need to take to secure your home, vehicles, and outdoor items. This may include tasks such as boarding up windows, moving outdoor furniture indoors, securing boats, etc. In addition, you should:

  • Make sure your insurance policy is updated and document home and possessions with photos or video.
  • Gather important documents and place them in a waterproof container.
  • Test generators and buy gasoline.
  • Make a plan for pets and farm animals. If you evacuate, remember to take your household pets with you.

Evacuation Assistance is Available – Currituck County offers evacuation assistance for citizens who may need it, including those with medical or functional needs. If the county orders an evacuation, transportation assistance to an inland shelter can be provided for those in need. Call the Department of Social Services at 232-3083 to sign up.

Things to remember about evacuations:

  • Currituck County does not open any pre-storm shelters due to the probability of flooding. If an evacuation is ordered, please heed this direction and travel to a safer inland location.
  • When evacuating, communicate your evacuation plan and intended destination with family members and friends.
  • Residential Re-Entry Permits – Re-entry permits are mailed to Corolla and Carova residents and property owners every two years, and current permits are valid for the 2021 season. If you have misplaced your permit, proof of residency or ownership will be required to allow you access to your property, such as a driver’s license, tax bill, or utility bill.
  • Business Re-Entry Permits – Essential personnel and critical businesses may complete the online application to receive their business re-entry permits.

Stay Informed – Monitor weather updates and warnings from trusted sources, including:

Sign up for Currituck Alert – You can choose to receive timely alerts via text message, email, or recorded voice message from Currituck County Emergency Management. Register online here.

* If you have any questions regarding hurricane preparedness, contact Currituck County Emergency Management at 252-232-2115.

SafeCorolla.com provides real-time beach info

Currituck County Emergency Management is pleased to launch www.SafeCorolla.com, a one-stop site for local beach conditions and safety information.  Currituck County includes 24 miles of oceanfront beaches and SafeCorolla.com will provide county residents and vacationers with important real-time data to help them plan their beach visit.

SafeCorolla.com is a mobile and tablet friendly site.  Users can easily navigate different sections by clicking on the individual “headers” near the top of the page. The webpage provides information on current weather forecasts, beach conditions, rip currents, locations for public beach access, locations of lifeguard stands, beach regulations, and more.

As part of the SafeCorolla program, residents and guests may also receive notifications directly to their phone by texting SafeCorolla to 888-777. For more information on SafeCorolla.com, contact Currituck Emergency Management at 252-232-2115.