Council reaffirms cap on occupancy of new rental houses

By on May 8, 2019

Construction is well under way on both houses. (Rob Morris)

New rental houses can accommodate no more than 14 people under zoning regulations enacted by the Southern Shores Town Council Tuesday night.

Limits on new construction needed a second vote after the council split 3-2 on a zoning text amendment, which requires a super-majority of at least four votes on the first try.

“I’m not convinced this is really going to solve the problem,” said Mayor Pro Tem Chris Nason, who originally voted against the amendment.

Nason changed his vote because, he said, the council needed to speak with one voice. The other dissenter, Councilman Jim Connors, voted yes “with extreme reservations.”

Mayor Tom Bennett agreed with other council members that the amendment was not perfect. But he said the regulations could be revisited if they were not doing the job.

The new rules are aimed at barring big houses like two under construction on the oceanfront that have stirred up protests and signs along roadways declaring “No! Mini-Hotels.”

Town officials wrestled for months on measures that would further restrict the occupancy of rental houses. A state law passed in 2015 probibits basing limits on the number of bedrooms, and several towns turned to square footage, including Southern Shores, which set the number at 6,000 in 2016.

But last year, two houses now under construction on the Southern Shores oceanfront were designed for 12 bedrooms within the square footage limit and include theater rooms and amenities aimed at weddings, reunions and other large gatherings.

Faced with mounting public pressure, planners in Southern Shores put together several alternatives, including limits based on septic capacity.

The new rules use septic capacity and an occupancy limit of 14 people under a new definition of “vacation cottage.”

Neighboring oceanfront property onwers, meanwhile, have filed an appeal of Coastal Area Management Act permits for the two houses, which are being built by SAGA Realty and Construction.

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  • tac

    It’s time that single family residences are defined 14 people? 34 people?…. and that mini hotels are regulated like regular hotels with built in fire extinguishers, exit signs, thus far life safety has been ignored …this may be a start and I commend those who fought hard for it.

    Wednesday, May 8 @ 11:57 am
  • G Surf

    I hope it holds up because these mini-hotels belong in commercial districts and that is not too mention the amount of resources they take up.

    Thursday, May 9 @ 9:18 pm
  • Greg

    There are already other homes in Southern Shores around the same size as the two causing the controversy. To attempt to limit occupancy of vacation rental homes to 14 is not going to work. Just how will it be enforced? I would submit the allowing of clear cutting wooded lots in Southern Shores is much more of a problem. Those who moved here years ago and respected the covenants are being disrespected by the tree haters who should have to respect the deed covenants.

    Saturday, May 11 @ 8:53 pm