Beach Town in a Forest

Beach Town in a Forest
Beach Town in a Forest, Pine Knoll Shores located in Carteret County on North Carolina's Crysal Coast. Photo compliments of Bill Flexman and Dave Prutzman

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Shore Line 1983-85

The period from 1983 to 1985 is a time of celebration and dissension in Pine Knoll Shores —as interesting for what does not happen as for what happens. Let’s begin this retrospective with the celebrations. 


In January 1983, The Shore Line celebrates the “Sign Man,” presenting a short profile of Frank Johnson, who designed, carved and painted signs for Pine Knoll Shores parks and town hall. Before retiring, Frank was art director and designer for J. Walter Thompson, a nationally known advertising agency.

Clipping from PKS Archives. Photo taken by Susan Phillips.

In May 1983, Shore Line celebrates its 10thyear. On August 1, 1983, residents raise champagne glasses in town hall to celebrate the 10thanniversary of Pine Knoll Shores’ incorporation. Marking both occasions, Mary Doll writes a brief retrospective of the paper and the town, reminding readers how intertwined those histories are. When the paper began, she notes, there were just over 100 residents in Pine Knoll Shores, and in the 10thanniversary year, there are 724.  

Clipping of Mary and Bill Doll from PKS Archives. Photo taken by Susan Phillips.

In 1984, the Garden Club and Ancient Mariners Bowling League are also  celebrating 10thanniversaries. And, in 1985, luminaria line town streets for the 10thconsecutive Christmas. 

However, a celebratory mood does not prevail in the 1983-85 timeframe. Pine Knoll Shores begins fighting its first lawsuit six months before the town’s 10thanniversary party (discounting the lawsuit filed against the town’s incorporation), and Mayor Cleveland dies three months after. Worries over flooding ebb and flow with the water. Disagreements over bridges, building restrictions and commercial development dominate the news. 

The lawsuit, filed by John Yancey Corporation, is precipitated by a 1982 zoning amendment limiting new construction in Pine Knoll Shores to eight living units per acre. All owners of motels in town see the amendment as a threat since it means they cannot rebuild if disaster strikes, but, in John Yancey’s case, the new zoning law restricts expansion plans. After much debate and without going to court, the lawsuit is resolved in July 1984 through rezoning and exclusions to the eight-unit restriction.   

Carteret News-Times clipping from PKS Archives. Photo by Susan Phillips.

However, Mayor Cleveland does not live to see the end of this case. His death while still in office prompts Ken Haller to accept the position of mayor once again, leaving Noel Yancey as sole editor of The Shore Line. Haller remains in office until a bitter fight over the proposed shopping center ends with a vote to proceed in February 1985. A month later, Ken Hannan is sworn in as mayor. 

Detail from early drawing by A.C. Hall envisioning town center from PKS archive. Photo by Susan Phillips.

One lesson our history teaches us is issues generating considerable heat can go up in smoke. That is certainly the story of Pine Knoll Shores’ shopping center. After a plan for a strip mall with a Rose’s store, a large supermarket and drugstore fail early in 1984, a second more promising though no less contentious plan emerges from Cliff Benson, Jr., and Roland Britt of Pine Knoll Associates. It includes five buildings, totaling 124,000 square feet of space, and 478 parking spaces. The plan includes one four-story structure with a restaurant on the top floor providing a view of the ocean and sound. The third floor provides office space, and a department store occupies the first two floors. The other four buildings are to include a supermarket, drugstore, another large store and small shops. The plan is to maintain enough vegetation and dune so buildings and parking will be “nearly invisible” from the street. Wetlands are to be turned into a lake with a fountain in its center. 

The Shore Line pages in 1984 are filled with arguments pro and con on this shopping area at Pine Knoll Boulevard and Salter Path Road. Roosevelt family representatives Ken Kirkman, Don Brock and Theodore Roosevelt, III, voice support and make clear the property is to be developed one way or another and will never become an extension of the natural preserve as some prefer. After getting about ten acres of the land in question, the town approves Pine Knoll Associates’ shopping center in February 1985. In June, a progress report indicates the land is being cleared. Everything seems to be on go. Then, the following month, a brief, ominous note appears in The Shore Line: “Construction at the site is temporarily on hold while lease negotiations are firmed up.” While all the debate is going on in town, investors seem to turn away, dooming the town center.

Also generating much discussion and little action in the 83-85 timeframe are drainage problems in eastern Pine Knoll Shores. In July 1983, the Board of Commissioners authorize the Wilmington engineering firm Henry Von Oesen and Associates to study a “serious drainage problem in the section of town lying east of Willow Road.” Two months later, Von Oesen presents a report indicating the problem can be fixed for about $150,000 using open drain ditches with culverts dug under roads. An entirely closed conduit system will cost up to $200,000. Either approach will drain water to the sound through the canal. Since development is still progressing in the area, the engineering report also makes future construction recommendations and suggests drainage ditches northward on Oakleaf Drive to route water to golf course ponds. After a ruling that water cannot be diverted to the sound, more talk ensues, and flooding problems persist. In December 1985, the Board of Commissioners are once again meeting with Von Oesen engineers attempting to arrive at another drainage plan.

Also receiving a lot of attention is the issue of a new bridge from Morehead City. Town residents want a third bridge, but do not want it to bring traffic directly through Pine Knoll Shores. After the North Carolina Department of Transportation decides to replace Morehead City’s swing-bridge with the current high-rise, local pressure for an alternative continues. So, in 1985, the state approves a plan for a bridge across the sound from Morehead City to Indian Beach—a plan that is never implemented.

Although the shopping center, a drainage solution, and a third bridge to Bogue Banks all prove elusive, there are some major accomplishments from 1983 through 1985. The town annexes property to expand its western border; approves plans for a camp/conference center, which will become the Trinity Center; approves a liquor-by-the drink law; buys a new fire truck; installs the Wayne Cleveland Fountain in front of town hall; and welcomes the organization of Pine Knoll Shores Women’s Club. It sees what the paper calls “new kinds of living” at Beacon’s Reach and McGinnis Point as well as at oceanfront condominiums such as Beachwalk and Genesis.
Photo of Wayne Cleveland Fountain by Susan Phillips

As for The Shore Line, throughout the 1983-85 timeframe, it honors the 1980 commitment to publish a monthly issue. When 1985 ends, Mary Korff is editor, ably assisted by a staff of volunteers. It takes a village to write stories, type, edit, run copies and collate pages for mailing. The paper is at this time an 8-10 page newsletter and seems to be wearing out editors at a relatively fast pace: from Mary Doll and Betty Hammon to George Eastland and Lenora Roberson through Ken Haller, Noel Yancey and Joan Dawson to Mary Korff. Without them, we would know much less about the town’s history.