By Connie Leinbach
Hyde County Commissioner John Fletcher on Monday at the Hyde County commissioners meeting called those on Ocracoke who are complaining about excessive noise “old biddies.”
The comment came during the portion of the meeting where Will Doerfer, special assistant county manager, gave an update on his research on possibly revising the Ocracoke noise ordinance.
The community has been discussing the ordinance this season stemming from several complaints between island businesses over noise violations.
Hyde County Manager Bill Rich explained that he had made a presentation about a suggested new ordinance at the November Ocracoke Civic and Business Association meeting, and that there are a lot of differing opinions.
Among other provisions, the current ordinance restricts noise to a maximum of 70 decibels between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. After that, it has no decibel limits from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. but says noise must not cross property boundaries. One proposal being floated would restrict decibels to 43 from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m.
While no action was taken Monday night, Rich said that Doerfer would be on the island next week to take decibel measurements.
Fletcher commented that there was a petition in favor of making the ordinance suggestions more liberal.
“I think to some extent this has to do with generations,” he said. “Most of the people who are so upset by noise are old biddies, and I’ll say that straight up, a bunch of old women. The younger people on the island and the business people don’t mind a little noise.”
He said that there are still young people that like to go out and have a good time. Since the beaches are closed at night in the summertime, the only place to have a good time is in the village.
“We’re in the business of tourism, and if the old ladies don’t like noise they can move out or go away in the summertime and rent their houses,” Fletcher said.
In the public comment period at the end of the meeting, islander Tom Pahl took exception to Fletcher’s noise ordinance comments.
“I don’t have a dog in that fight, and I have heard both sides to that argument making good points,” he said. “I hear them on the island working to a resolution in a pretty responsible manner. I think to refer to one side of the argument as old biddies is irresponsible and reflects badly on the entire board of the commissioners.”
“I put you in that category,” Fletcher retorted.
Rich also reported on the growing mallard duck population in the heart of the village, noting that he and Doerfer are researching ways to control and possibly eliminate the flock, estimated at about 300. By next spring when breeding season resumes, this number could triple if nothing is done.
Lodging owners are having to power wash their parking areas every day, Rich said.
“It’s out of control,” he said. (See sidebar story at end.)
In other business,
By unanimous vote, Earl Pugh Jr. was named chair of the commissioners, replacing Barry Swindell. Pugh said he would like to visit the schools in the near future and hold a commissioners meeting on Ocracoke.
The commissioners voted to send a resolution to the Albemarle Regional Planning Organization to delay consideration of tolling the free Hatteras ferry.
State Reps. Paul Tine (U-Kitty Hawk) and John Torbett (R-Gaston), co-chairs of the House Transportation Committee, have said to hold off on this issue until the short session when they said they will work again on getting these funds out of the local funding pot and into the regional pot.
Ferry replacement funds are driving the ferry tolling issue and in October, the Dare County commissioners, in a surprise move, voted to support a toll should that eventuality occur.
Fletcher remarked that it appears Hyde County is working at cross purposes with the county manager supporting a proposed passenger ferry that charges a fee alongside free car ferries.
“People will ride a free ferry as long as they can,” Fletcher said. “The Ferry Division will want to run fewer (car) ferries, and that will be fine for tourists but hell for the people on Ocracoke.”
He said that with a tolled ferry and a free one, the county is “talking out of both sides of our mouth. The People on Ocracoke are dead set against a passenger ferry.”
Commissioner Ben Simmons, who is a member of the ARPO, noted that the Currituck County representatives side with Hyde and Rich said Tyrell County sides with Hyde, too.
After a lengthy discussion again with Dr. Randolph Latimore about his second request to fund three teacher assistant positions in the school district, the commissioners voted to fund two positions at Mattamuskeet School for $43,250 from January to the end of the school year. The requested position for Ocracoke was not approved.
Rich said the newly approved regulations on southern flounder that would shorten the season, increase the size of the catch and the mesh size will have a bad impact on commercial fishing. Commissioner Ben Simmons agreed saying it would harm Engelhard’s fishing community.
The commissioners voted to ask the lobbyist team, McClees Consulting of Oriental, to continue working for Hyde County in 2016 for the same amount of $25,000, though the lobbyists have asked for $27,500.
Wayne Clark, owner of Edward’s Motel, was approved for appointment to the Ocracoke Development Ordinance Board of Adjustment.
Islander Teresa Adams was sworn in as a deputy county clerk and the county public information officer. Adams replaces Sarah Johnson, who left the position in November.
Sidebar on the ducks (reprinted from the December Ocracoke Observer):
Bill Rich, Hyde County manager, at the Nov. 16 monthly meeting to talk about ferries with NC Ferry Division officials, had said that he is working on the growing mallard duck problem in the village.
Despite the picturesque aspect of the wild fowl causing traffic stops along the main roads, their presence has been a cause of concern for many on whose property they roost.
In an interview after that meeting, Will Doerfer, special assistant county manager, who is helping with this issue, stressed that the biggest help would be for people to stop feeding them and remove food sources.
“Ducks have a higher procreation rate if they have a secure food source,” he said.
In the meantime, the county is looking into removing the ducks, but this solution is a few months down the road since permits have to be obtained from state and federal wildlife agencies, which takes time.
When (and if) these ducks are removed, they would have to be contained on private property somewhere on the mainland, Doerfer said.
“They can’t intermingle with wild mallards,” he said. This is because, having been habituated to human habitat, they may carry diseases.
Peter Vankevich contributed to this story.