By Connie Leinbach
After hearing from several islanders and following a lengthy discussion, the Hyde County commissioners on Monday night passed a resolution supporting the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution but deleted a paragraph calling Hyde County a “sanctuary” county for guns.
The resolution, initiated by Commissioner Shannon Swindell, passed 3 to 2, and was opposed by Swan Quarter commissioner James Topping and Ocracoke’s commissioner Tom Pahl.
The final, deleted paragraph said: “…that if the government of the State of North Carolina shall infringe upon the inalienable rights granted by the Second Amendment, Hyde County shall become a ‘Sanctuary County’ for all firearms unconstitutionally prohibited by the government of the State of North Carolina in that, Hyde County will prohibit its employees from enforcing the unconstitutional actions of the state government.”
In the public comment section prior to the resolution, on Ocracoke, one commenter supported the resolution and several islanders opposed it and questioned its legality.
“Should the state legislature and the governor pass a gun control measure, the commissioners are not in a position to decide that something is unconstitutional and not follow the law,” said Finley Austin.
In Swan Quarter, one person, the region’s state representative, Bobby Hanig, (R-Powell’s Point) voiced his support for the resolution. “As your state representative I will stand beside you to oppose any assault on this right,” he said. “I’m sure I speak for your fellow citizens of this county and the great state of North Carolina when I say thank you for your resolve to protect this and all other amendments to our Constitution,” he said.
Sheriff Guire Cahoon pointed out that the final paragraph would take Hyde County outside the current law and as a sworn officer of the Constitution could not support that.
Swindell explained that numerous North Carolina counties have passed similar resolutions recently following reports that the commonwealth of Virginia was threatening to pass gun restricting legislation, “making millions of law-abiding, taxpaying citizens of Virginia felons overnight.”
As of February, 60 of North Carolina’s 100 counites have passed similar resolutions, said Kris Noble, Hyde County manager.
The impetus of these resolutions comes from Virginia where Gov. Ralph Northam and the legislature are pushing for tighter gun restrictions following last year’s mass shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal complex in which 12 victims died, and 13 years after a gunman terrorized the campus of Virginia Tech, killing 32 people and wounding 17 others with two semi-automatic pistols.
A few people suggested that this hot-button issue required a public hearing.
“We can do that, but for every one person that opposes it on the island you have four that support on the mainland,” Noble said. “It’s just the divide of who we are.”
Commissioner Ben Simmons said he was in favor of the resolution but was against the final paragraph that declared Hyde be a sanctuary county.
Pahl noted that this broad political issue should not be on the agenda, but if so, Hyde County should support several other Constitutional amendments he said were under attack including, Amendments 1, 5, 9 and 15.
“As a county, if we’re going to take on the issue of supporting amendments to the Constitution we shouldn’t limit it to the Second Amendment,” he said. “And I think we should pass the resolution favor and the adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment.”
The commissioners unanimously voted to remove the final paragraph before approving the resolution.
In other business, the commissioners learned from Emergency Services Director Justin Gibbs that eight to nine islanders displaced by Hurricane Dorian last September should move into temporary travel trailers by the end of the week, bringing the total to 12.
Of 35 travel trailers to be used for temporary housing, 30 have been applied for and approved.
After this third wave is complete the need for short-term housing slacks, he said.
He said assignment of the trailers is moving fairly rapidly following some setbacks owing to issues with ferries not running and logistics in purchasing supplies and services the trailers need.
The commissioners passed a revision to the animal control ordinance that designates the county’s animal control officer, not Hyde County Sheriff or deputies, to determine if a dog is dangerous. Noble said the county contracts with the Tyrell County animal control officer for this. The commissioners also approved creating a three-person board to hear appeals of the dangerous animal designation.
Noble asked the commissioners to review the draft solar ordinance before a public hearing is held at a later date to adopt it.
Several years ago, the commissioners placed a moratorium on the establishment of solar farms in Hyde County until the commissioners could come up with an ordinance regulating them.
That moratorium has run out, Noble said.
Pahl noted that the draft language seems to discourage solar business and possibly even homeowners adding their own solar arrays. Noble said Paul Spruill, CEO of Tideland EMC, wants to meet with Hyde officials to work through the draft supports both the mainland and the island.
The commissioners approved the receipt of two Golden LEAF Foundation grants: a $500,000 grant to build a new EMS station on the lot across from the Island Inn and $125,000 for replacement of the electric trams that were flooded during Hurricane Dorian.
“Because trams are classified as golf carts for insurance purposes, flood insurance is not available,” the agreement notes. “In the future, trams will be removed from the island during evacuations.”
The commissioners, owing to ongoing Hurricane Dorian recovery, approved delaying the property revaluation schedule by one year and adopting a six-year schedule.
Islander Kelley Shinn in the public comment period said the Hurricane Dorian debris removal extension to Feb. 29 was still not enough time for the 37% of the population that was displaced to begin to do muck and gut out of their houses and would have to spend money for debris removal.
She said that a county press release said debris removal would be handled on a case by case basis. “I don’t know what that means,” she said. Pahl told her she the county intends to do everything we can do to try to accommodate them. “I want assurance,” she said. “I do not want vague terminology about what the county plans to do for the 30% of population that represents our poorest.”
A public hearing for the Hyde County Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance will be continued until the April 6 commissioners meeting to receive public input. It has to be approved before June 19.
Jane Hodges, Hyde County building permit technician, explained that the newly released flood maps for the county (though using data only up to 2016) show that a lot of the county is coming out of the flood zone.
Section 21 says that if a structure is flooded twice in so many years, the building needs to be brought up to code. This wasn’t a requirement previously because the county had thought it would be a hardship for many residents.
Hodges noted that the Ocracoke Advisory Planning Board recommended that the free board height of all new and to-be-raised buildings be a uniform height of nine feet above mean high tide. Free board height is the height at which the living quarters start.
She also noted that this ordinance says historic homes do not have to be elevated.
“If they’re on the historic register or contribute to the overall historic-ness, if they choose to elevate, they can do a lower level,” she said.
To view the maps, visit online at FRIS.nc.gov/fris.