Southern Shores considers new policy for big parties

By on August 21, 2019

The Southern Shores Planning Board is considering the possibility of a policy and registration program that will not only keep tabs on when and where special events are being held in residential districts, but also serve as an educational tool for those who may be planning large gatherings.

After some discussion at its Aug. 19 meeting, the board unanimously directed staff to consult with Town Attorney Ben Gallop to ensure such a policy would not contravene a recent amendment to the Vacation Rental Act that was signed by Governor Roy Cooper last month. The members agreed to revisit the issue at its September meeting.

Several members said they supported a policy similar to the one in the Town of Duck, which asks those planning a wedding-related gathering of 50 or more people in a private residence to register. The Duck Policy also provides a link to regulations related to that town’s parking, noise, trash removal and signage.

“I just think that if we have a policy in place that is similar to Duck’s, we can kind of set the tone,” said Vice Chairperson Andy Ward. “If we can head certain things off at the pass and try to put that finger in the dike, I think we are better off as a town.”

The move comes just over a month after the Southern Shores Town Council, by a 3-2 vote, rejected a proposed ordinance that would have imposed occupancy limitations and other regulations on property owners in Southern Shores who want to throw large parties. That proposal attracted significant attention from the community as well as opposition from the Outer Banks Association of Realtors.

Unlike an ordinance, a policy in not enforceable and serves simply as a guiding document, board members pointed out.

The issue of regulating special events has been tossed around in Southern Shores in the past.   But concern resurfaced last fall with SAGA’s construction of two 12-bedroom homes along the oceanfront that had a number of features making it attractive for large events.  Ward referenced a Carolina Designs online advertisement for one of those homes, which he said characterized the structure “as a perfect venue” for weddings. The advertisement, he said, was taken down at the request of the town manager.

While the Duck policy addresses only wedding events, several planning board members indicated that for Southern Shores’ purposes, such a policy would likely address all large gatherings regardless of their nature.

“Personally, my thought was that it would be beneficial to the Town of Southern Shores if we had a policy in place so that if at some future date, when there was a problem with an event, we would have a policy that we could just pull off the shelf and go with,” said Planning Board Chairperson Elizabeth Morey. “If all we do is create educational material and make people aware of the need to think of parking, think about noise and make sure guests are safe when they come to your event, I think it’s worthwhile.”

For his part, Planning Board member Don Sowder said he didn’t see that there were currently any problems with large gatherings in town. “I think a policy is fine,” he noted, but added that he was opposed to “making rules for rules sake.”

Several people spoke during the public comment period, including local real estate agent Chris Toolan. He suggested that rather than enacting a policy, the town should consider a public relations campaign similar to those about rip currents as a means to educate property owners of regulations.

“I think you have enough laws and policies on the books to deal with parking and noise,” he noted. “You have enough teeth in all of your laws.”

Toolan also cautioned the board that such a policy may be in violation of Senate Bill 483, which was signed by Gov. Cooper on July 1. Among other things, the amended bill prohibits municipalities from conditioning a property owner’s ability to rent a property based on participation in a governmental program or by requiring a special fee.

Porter Graham, a governmental affairs director with the Outer Banks Association of Realtors Governmental Affairs, told the board that his organization preferred the Duck policy over the various ordinances the town has considered in the past. “I think the Duck number of fifty is a reasonable number to work with,” he added.


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  • surf123

    Realtors and developers do not care about quality of life for residents. There concern is squeezing as many people as possible into Dare County while imposing as few restrictions on them knowing none of the crap that renters get away with would be tolerated in any community.

    Wednesday, Aug 21 @ 12:11 pm
  • Sean

    No one on vacation wants to rent a house for a week and have a wedding going on in a house next door. Now that would stink paying all this money and have a commercial gathering in a beach home next door. Keep it limited. Keep it quiet. It’s not a party. It’s a neighborhood. There is plenty of places ( venues )to get married here

    Wednesday, Aug 28 @ 8:50 pm