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Currituck Maps Corolla’s Future

FROM THE DAILY ADVANCE
Currituck maps Corolla’s future
Staff Writer
Friday, August 12, 2011
By Cindy Beamon

CURRITUCK – Much has changed in Corolla since residents sat on porches overlooking open stretches of sand road and sprawling live oaks. The quiet fishing village has been replaced by a seasonal influx of vacationers who still fish, but not for sustenance. Today’s chief pursuit is leisure at the popular tourist resort.

Businesses and rental housing have sprung up to meet the booming demand, but the village still bears the mark of its former life.

County officials are hoping to preserve a piece of that past with a newly developed Corolla Village Small Area Plan.

Currituck Planning Board member Manley West believes the task will not be easy. In summer, Corolla’s population swells to 55,000, more than double the figure for the entire Currituck mainland. Future growth will add pressure for more services and possibly more changes to the village’s landscape.

“Trying to keep it a small village like it used to be is going to be some task,” West said.

Currituck Senior Planner Holly White said the Corolla Village Small Area Plan is designed to protect the community’s unique character in the midst of certain change. The key will be setting policies that protect Corolla’s distinctive culture and history, natural surroundings and architecture, she said.

The plan was developed after a series of meetings with Corolla residents, business owners and county officials that began last summer. The plan won unanimous approval from the Currituck Planning Board this week and will be forwarded to commissioners in September for final consideration.

“The community is committed to preserving the unique, coastal village feel and sense of place in Corolla Village by planning for and strategically balancing future development,” the plan reads.

The biggest threats to that goal are big box buildings and retail chains, loss of trees and open space, traffic, and plans for construction of a mid-county bridge, residents said in a community survey.

White said the plan recommends two studies to stem those threats.

Traffic problems – with cars and pedestrians competing for space on narrow roads – is one “hot button issue” that needs more study, said White.

Susan Harris, Corolla resident and planning board member, emphasized the need for a quick solution.

“It’s pretty scary in summer as it is now,” said Harris, who said residents had hoped the plan would provide more specific answers to the problem.

White said the problem is too complex for too quick an answer. A traffic study is needed first, she said.

Another study is needed to help preserve the village’s distinctive architecture, White said. The plan recommends forming a study committee to examine existing architecture. That study would aid the county in adopting new building policies that encourage the same look, White said. For example, the county may need to relax its setback standards since the old houses are built closer to the road.

Corolla Village is mostly developed except for a conservation area of wetlands and maritime forests to the west. The village includes the Whalehead Club, Corolla Village and Corolla Light subdivisions, the Currituck Lighthouse, the N.C. Wildlife Education Center and the Corolla Wild Horse Museum.

Since most of the available land is developed, the focus of the small area plan is on future redevelopment.

Businesses in the area are mostly small-scale, locally owned shops that could be replaced by bigger commercial buildings without regulations to prevent it.

The plan proposes “supporting and growing existing small businesses that make Corolla Village unique.”

Planning Board member Jim Clark suggested the county may also need to examine how Corolla may be affected by future growth to the north. County policy currently prohibits businesses on the off-road beaches, which makes Corolla a major destination for groceries, gas and entertainment.

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