Wednesday, December 4, 2013
The Bonner Bridge is in Outer Banks news once again and not in a good way. Emergency inspections revealed that sand in Oregon Inlet had scoured away so much sediment from the foundations that the bridge had to be closed immediately.
Estimates are still preliminary on how long the repair work will take, but initially NCDOT is hoping to get the bridge reopened in 90 days. In the meantime, the Ferry Division of NCDOT will keep things moving, bringing in four ferries to run between Stumpy Point and Rodanthe.
To their credit, NCDOT, both the road and ferry divisions, have done an excellent job of keeping things moving in similar situations in the past. Road and bridge repairs have been done quickly under some very trying conditions and the ferries have maintained a tenuous, if inconvenient, lifeline to Hatteras Island.
It is unfortunate that construction on a replacement span that should be well under way is still tied up in litigation. After losing on every one of their arguments in Federal District Court, as we wrote in our blog, Outer Banks Bridge News, the plaintiffs--Southern Environmental Law Center--have appealed the decision and everything is on hold pending the outcome of the appeals case.
The effect on our Brindley Beach property owners will be negligible; all of our properties are well north of Oregon Inlet. If there is any effect it will be a slight opportunity for off-season rentals to visitors who don’t want to add a half hour extra drive time to Stumpy Point and an hour and a half ferry ride to their travel plans.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
|Santa Claus at last year's Duck Yuletide Celebration.|
After a banner summer season and a fall filled with activity and festivals, things seem to revert to our heritage. At heart, the Outer Banks is one village strung along 100 miles or so of barrier island.
It is one of our favorite parts of living here--this sense that with our friends and neighbors and we’re in this together. Which may be why there is so much to do on the Outer Banks in December.
There is no way to cover everything, but here are a few highlights.
The Whalehead Club is featuring a series of holiday Sunday Concerts in conjunction with their weekend Christmas in Corolla candlelight tour. Traditional music, homemade goodies and hot chocolate--that should get just about everyone in the mood.
The Outer Banks Hotline 25th Annual Festival of Trees will begin this Thursday at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head and run through the weekend. Santa Claus will visit and a benefit auction for the trees on Sunday are some of the highlights.
The Manteo tree lighting is Friday 12/6--a magical night of community spirit. High school choirs singing, hot food from a local church--hard not to be in the Christmas spirit after that.
On Saturday Duck’s Yuletide Event includes a crab pot Christmas tree, a visit from what may be the best Santa any child has encountered and live music from Emme St. James and Her Jazz Gentlemen.
And that’s just one weekend.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
|Don't miss the 18th Annual Advice 5 Cents Turkey Trot in Duck.|
Thanksgiving has got to be the best holiday of all. What are the requirements? Hang out with people you love and care about, eat too much food, tell bad jokes and create new memories.
In that sense, the Outer Banks is pretty much like every other place in the United States . . . with the added advantage that we live in the most beautiful place imaginable.
Of course the Outer Banks wouldn’t be the Outer Banks if we didn’t do a few things in our own unique way.
Acknowledging that everyone eats too much on Thanksgiving, there are two early morning 5Ks that will give runners an excuse to eat later in the day. The 18th Annual Advice 5K Turkey Trot in Duck winds around the Village and in the best tradition of the town, it’s like their 4th of July Parade--lots of costumes, lots of crazies, lots of fun. Eight a.m. at Scarborough Lane is the start time.
The Outer Banks Gobbler 5k & Fun Run in Nags Head, sponsored by the Outer Banks Running Club is a little more formal, but still lots of fun. Registration is required for this one, so show up early and see if you can get in the race.
Somethings are mainstays that can’t--or maybe shouldn’t--be changed.
The day after Thanksgiving . . . the infamous Black Friday . . . is is pretty much the same on the Outer Banks as it is anywhere else--except the crowds aren’t quite as insane and for most of the retail stores up and down the beach, this is the last best chance to move merchandise until April or May. Markdowns and prices reflect that.
Of course that “fat jolly old elf” manages to make simultaneous appearances in infinite locations, so many places that we couldn’t possibly list them all here.
Then, there all those things that are unique to the Outer Banks and make a visit during the holidays memorable. Christmas in Corolla actually started last week and runs through Christmas. The Whalehead Club has been sponsoring this for a number of years, but the 2013 version looks to be the most spectacular candlelight tour yet.
On Saturday, November 30, there are two events that truly seem to be unique to the Outer Banks. The Kitty Hawk Kites Kites with Lights fills the night sky over Jockey’s Ridge State Park with lights dancing above the sand dunes held aloft by dozens of kites.
Earlier in the day on the mainland in Jarvisburg at the Cotton Gin, Sanctuary Vineyards is celebrating the Big Curri-shuck from 12-4 p.m. All-you-can eat local steamed oysters and crabs from I Got Your Crabs restaurant down in Kitty Hawk, wines from Sanctuary Vineyards--that’s the winery on the Cotton Gin property--and live music.
Finally, the 3rd Annual Redfish Fishing Tournament at Jennette’s Pier is also on Saturday.
Thanksgiving weekend seems to be getting more popular every year on the Outer Banks--probably that strong sense of tradition with just a little tweak of different that makes it all so great.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
|Playing to a packed house at the 7th Annual Duck Jazz Festival.|
Here on the Outer Banks we’re wrapping up what looks like the best October we’ve ever had. All the numbers aren’t in yet, but early indications are this was an exceptional month.There has been an intense effort to increase shoulder season visitation, and it looks as though it may finally be paying off. Even as recently as 10 years ago, September and October were at best blips on the off season radar, but with multiple music festivals and the Seafood Fest grouped together in the first three weeks of October, the result has been a noticeable increase in business.It is not just the festivals and music industry that has created the fall extension of the summer season.
The first group to understand how important the shoulder season could be was the Outer Banks wedding professionals. At the core of their message is the beauty of the Outer Banks, but without a coordinated marketing effort the word would never have gotten out.
There is shared credit in this--groups and individuals had the vision and courage to pursue that vision stand out as pioneers. But equally important has been the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau that has provided marketing expertise and advice as well as funding for a message that brought people here.
So, what does all of this mean?
To begin with, it certainly means we’re having a great time on the Outer Banks. The Bluegrass Festival, Mustang Music Festival and Duck Jazz Festival were amazing. Great music, wonderful crowd participation . . . everything that anyone could want from a day or weekend of music. The Outer Banks Seafood Fest was better than last year’s inaugural event which exceeded all expectations.
But that’s the fun part.
For our Brindley Beach property owners, this represents a growing opportunity. The continuing success of the Outer Banks wedding industry is an extraordinary opportunity for our homeowners--a chance to reach a customer who may not have experienced the Outer Banks before. A good first time experience almost guarantees a repeat visitor.
For our homeowners who have chosen to participate in our Partial Week Rental program, the growing popularity of weekend festivals is an emerging market that needs to be acknowledged . . . and studied. Although the festivals have been very successful, the actual number of visitors attending does not seem large enough yet to impact our rental programs. Nonetheless, it is a market that offers revenue possibilities when full week rentals are not available.
There is another side to this story as well--a cautionary note that we have raised before: as the seasons extend, the time available to do the maintenance and upkeep necessary to remain competitive in a very competitive Outer Banks market becomes compressed. Keep that in mind when planning 2014 improvements to your property.
Monday, September 30, 2013
|The Bonner Bridge.|
There’s a lot happening with Outer Banks bridges these days--a couple of maintenance issues and a huge lawsuit that was settled very much in NCDOT’s favor.
First the maintenance since that will effect everyone coming or leaving the Outer Banks. Both the Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet and the Wright Memorial Bridge are undergoing much needed maintenance.
The twin span Wright Memorial Bridge, that crosses the Albemarle Sound at Kitty Hawk is the most important link with the mainland and starting about two weeks ago, the outbound bridge was closed for maintenance. It’s ironic that the outbound bridge is the one that needs the work; it is the newer span, but the expansion joints never did seem to fit quite correctly and a trip across the bridge at 55 mph is enough to wear the shocks out in a car and make passengers seasick.
In addition to replacing the expansion joints the bridge will have to be repaved. Tthe whole project is scheduled to be completed by mid May.
When NCDOT originally scheduled this, the feeling was the impact would be minimal, with some minor backups on weekends. If only that was the case. The backups are not anything like what we see in the summer, but weekend traffic definitely crawls approaching the bridge. If at all possible, consider coming in through Manteo instead of Kitty Hawk--ie. take US 64 instead of US 158.
There are also ongoing repairs to the Bonner Bridge. The bridge is about 10 years past its predicted lifespan, so the maintenance is important, although at this point the disruption to traffic should be minor. Right now they are replacing cement on the super structure that has been corroded by the salt environment. Lane closures will be occurring but traffic should keep moving pretty well. The bridge, it should be clarified, is safe for travel. Maintenance costs will continue to escalate, however, as the countdown to the replacement bridge goes on.
The big news came out of federal district court earlier this month when Judge Louise Flanagan dismantled the case the Southern Environmental Law Center brought against NCDOT--and dismantled is being kind to how thoroughly she destroyed the SELC case.
According to the lawsuit, when NCDOT issued their Final Environmental Impact Statement they failed to completely comply with a process called NEPA 404 (National Environmental Protection Act, section 404) that outlines how a major project such as the Bonner Bridge replacement will be developed.
Which is an absurd argument. The FEIS is a remarkably detailed analysis of present and future needs, costs and impact to the environment.
What the SELC and the environmental groups didn’t like was they didn’t get their way. What they want to build is a 17.2 mile bridge in Pamlico Sound that would parallel Pea Island and reconnect at Rodanthe.
That concept was studied in detail, but was rejected because of cost. Here’s Judge Flanagan on that argument: "The commitment of state and federal resources to the Pamlico Sound Bridge Corridor alternative could deprive the state of the ability to replace other deficient bridges and advance other needed construction projects for two to seven years, depending on the source of funding," she wrote.
There are still some hurdles the NCDOT will have to cross to get the project moving forward. There is a second case against CAMA for improperly permitting the bridge. With the federal court victory, NCDOT has been allowed to enter the case with CAMA and Flanagan’s ruling certainly strengthens their hand.
SELC may appeal the ruling--and probably will do so, waiting until the last moment to do so to drag the process out as long as possible.
Friday, August 30, 2013
The summer season is just about done here on the Outer Banks, and it looks like we had more visitors than we’ve ever had. Of course the final figures aren’t in yet, but the figures from earlier in the summer plus what we have been able to observe here at Brindley Beach, seem to tell the same story--vacation home rentals were at an all time high.
The Outer Banks economy overall has continued to grow and thrive, but there are some areas that we need to improve. Again, the final reports aren’t in, but in talking to our friends in retail and restaurant businesses, and looking at some of the early reports, it looks like neither sector showed the strength we saw in property management. It wasn’t a bad year by any means for either one of them, but from what we can see, they’re going to struggle to get to last year’s figures.
Trying to sort through all the reasons for the difficulties in those two areas is way beyond the scope of any one article or blog and besides, at Brindley Beach we specialize in property management and real estate sales and that is what we know best.
The Outer Banks real estate market is poised for an extraordinary rebound.There are, of course, no guarantees and we don’t have a crystal ball that can predict with absolute certainty what the future holds, but there is growing evidence that the incremental increases in real estate activity over the past three to four years are about to become more robust.
In Dare County the number of building permits is up by 25% and the amount is almost double last year’s dollar figure. That is a clear indication that larger permits--read houses--are being pulled and housing construction is about to boom again.
Although Currituck County building permits for the year are not as strong as its neighbor to the south, it is keeping pace with last year, which was a very strong year.
The roots of what appear to be a building boom go back to what we do best--property management and vacation home rentals. From mid June through August, we are at 100% capacity. At 100% capacity, we are probably turning people away, and that information is not being lost on investors.
There are a couple of important points this raises. First of all, for investors, this is the time to start the research needed to make an informed decision about an investment property. We don’t want to exclude homeowners looking to buy a vacation home either--and actually the same rules apply to them. This is the time to start looking--and if you find something to meet your needs, property values tend to be more flexible now than in the summer when maximum revenue is flowing in.
For our existing property owners--this is a cautionary note: a competitive market is going to get even more competitive. Make sure your property is ready to stand out when our visitors come calling.
Give us a call here at Brindley Beach Vacations. Whether your needs are property management or investment, we are the Outer Banks experts and can help you make the right decision to maximize the return on your investment, your revenue, or the pleasure you can have from owning a vacation home.
Friday, August 23, 2013
|Corolla beach on a sunny day.|
I see in the latest reader’s poll of best beaches, (CNN, 20 more can't-miss U.S. beaches) the beaches of Corolla were rated #2 in the nation, which isn’t surprising at all. Great access, soft sand, wide beach and a beautiful setting. It really doesn’t get much better than that, and with fall coming on, the Outer Banks beaches get even better. The summer crowds are gone, the ocean temperature is still wonderfully pleasant and the air temperatures are still in the mid 80s.
But in fairness to the other areas of the Outer Banks, Corolla is not the only beach that is worth a visit.
We’re going to exclude Duck and Southern Shores from the list. Fantastic beaches, very similar to Corolla, but there is no public access to them. Folks who are staying in either town, though, have a permit and they know how nice those beaches are.
We’re also not going to include Hatteras Island. Nice beaches, worth a day trip, but it’s a bit far afield.
There’s a bit of a conundrum about describing what makes a great beach . . . is it the experience or the beach itself?
Example: Coquina Beach which is actually just south of South Nags Head and is part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore is an absolutely wonderful, beautiful beach. Shower and restroom facilities, great parking and if you’re there with family, kids can spend hours exploring the dunes in back of the beach. However, pack a picnic lunch and plenty of fluids--the nearest store is at least six miles away.
For our guests staying in Corolla, Coquina Beach is pretty far away, but visitors in Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills, looking for a little bit different beach experience may want to head down there.
In contrast to how far from services Coquina Beach is, the Beach Road in Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills was the original commercial district of the towns, and in a lot of ways all the little mom and pop stores and restaurants lining the road are a throwback to an earlier time.
Lots of beach access along the roads in both towns. It gets a bit tight in the summer, but going into the fall, there should be no problem at all finding a place to park.
Admittedly the sand and beaches in both towns are not quite as nice as either Corolla or Coquina. The sand tends to be a little more course and especially in Kitty Hawk, the beach is more narrow. However, if you have never experienced a dolphin boat and milk shake from John’s Drive-in in Kitty Hawk . . . your life experiences are sadly lacking.
Nags Head just finished nourishing their beach last year and the result has been a wide, sandy shoreline. South of Jennette’s Pier (South Nags Head) it’s all residential, but north of that the commercial district is a lot like Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills.
A bit far for someone in Corolla--but you have that beautiful beach up there, so why bother? Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and maybe even Southern Shores--it’s not too bad a ride, if you’re looking for a little bit different oceanside experience.
A quick surfing note about nourished beaches and Nags Head in particular. A characteristic of a nourished beach is as the ocean removes sand from the beach, a sandbar forms offshore, creating a long even break. The beach south of Jennette’s Pier has some of the best surf conditions on the northern Outer Banks.