Planning the Coast – Emily’s Internship with Kill Devil Hills

Hello, blog! My name is Emily Galvin, and my internship this semester was with the Planning Department of the Town of Kill Devil Hills. The office oversees a number of the workings of Kill Devil Hills, from participating in public forums to issuing building permits and designing public parks. 

Local governments like Kill Devil Hills have the unique position of meeting the concerns of local residents and also ensuring the coordination with federal and state policies. On my very first day on the job, my mentor, Meredith, and I attended a FEMA meeting with all of the other towns on the Outer Banks to begin assessing the damage of Hurricane Dorian. I was immediately impressed with the way these towns react to storms like this one and are prepared to meet with federal agencies in the aftermath. 

In my job, I spent time editing the Town’s CAMA Land Use Plan based on comments from the State, which is a major project that coastal municipalities must undertake to best prepare their town and residents for the realities of living on the coast. I learned a lot about how governments plan for resiliency – and, in many cases, how these local governments learn to design their own plans in ways not prescribed at the State level. 

Throughout my internship, I was impressed by how engaged citizens were in the decision-making process of local government and town planning. Since coming to the Outer Banks, I’ve been lucky to have been exposed to the way that members of a small community look out for each other and have a stake in the places that matter to them.

I was able to review videos from a town council meeting, and in it I could see the difficulty of local government — the balance of meeting the needs of the town residents and complying with existing ordinances. A few times, I met with residents and business owners throughout Kill Devil Hills about pieces of their land that did not comply with Town Code, and most of them were positively committed to making the changes to comply. This was a common mission in local governments, I learned, working with local individuals during one afternoon and federal agencies in another.

I learned a great deal about the careful balance of being a local government, and I’m sure this will shape the way I see the places I live in the future. A big thank you to the Town of Kill Devil Hills for having me.