Interning with Dare County’s Planning Department

Hey, everyone! 

My name is Gabriella Paone, and I am a sophomore at the Outer Banks Field Site. I am a political science major but chose to participate in the field site because of my interest in the environment. Before coming to Manteo, everyone from the field site met with Corey Adams, the internship coordinator. During my meeting, I gave Corey very little to work with as I had no idea what I wanted my internship to look like, or even who I would like to work for. I told him I was interested in public government, but that I did not have a preference to be placed anywhere. Thankfully, Corey was able to get creative and placed me with the Dare County planning department. 

One topic I was asked to research – the demographics of Dare County

I have been working with Donna Creef, who is the planning director of Dare County. The work I have been doing has been quite relevant to the things I have learned in Professor D’Anna’s class, which teaches about coastal management practices. My work over the course of the semester has been assisting Donna in updating Dare County’s land-use plan for the new zoning ordinance. Per North Carolina state laws, coastal land use plans must be updated every five years to ensure management procedures are up to date and still efficient. This allows states to develop coastal management programs and includes coastal communities within this process. Donna Creef’s job to update this plan is immensely important to ensure that development and protecting the environment is a balanced act in the Outer Banks. 

A map made using GIS, which classifies land uses

Throughout my internship, I have mostly assisted Donna with creating tables, research, and making the land-use plan overall look more presentable and easier to understand. I have written up documents for multiple sections of the land use plan including demographics, locating maps, and have become familiar with other zoning ordinances to look at similarities. Dare County also has its own “GIS guy” who I used information from to make new classifications of land uses. As a non-environment major, it was cool to see the skill be used to solve a current knowledge gap within Dare County. Although the zoning ordinance is a government document, it is important that the zoning ordinance is accessible to everyone, especially developers who need to adhere to the guidelines within. I had the chance to write up a few drafts for various sections of the land use plan and had to consider that those reading this may not know the technical terminology of planning. Coming into this internship with no prior knowledge of zoning helped me to make sure the sections I wrote were easy to understand to any audience.

I have enjoyed working under a local government department, as it allows me to learn more about the place I have lived for the past semester. While it has been a challenge to work remotely, especially with unfamiliar terminology and concepts used in planning, I have appreciated expanding my knowledge about the importance of local government practices. Before my internship, I had no idea what a planning director or department actually did, but I have now realized the importance of giving smaller communities greater influence and choice to handle issues that impact them. I have enjoyed my internship because it has opened my eyes to more career paths that help people and the environment simultaneously. 

-Gabriella Paone, Class of 2023