SAGA seeks changes for Marshes Light hotel project

By on October 4, 2019

SAGA CEO Sumit Gupta and Manteo resident Bebe Woody speak at the commissioners meeting. (Michelle Wagner)

Signaling it is moving forward with efforts to build a waterfront hotel in the planned community of Marshes Light, SAGA Construction has formally submitted a text amendment request to the Town of Manteo that, if approved, would ease size and height restrictions for hotels there.

The requested changes drew a crowd at the Oct. 2 Manteo Board of Commissioners meeting, with a handful of residents voicing concern that SAGA would seek to build a hotel larger than the 60-room, three-story “boutique inn” outlined in a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) it received when it recently took over as the developer of Marshes Light.

Marshes Light is a planned unit development that has developed through the years according to a master plan created with the inception of the neighborhood in the early 2000s. Located just south of Manteo’s downtown, the community is connected to the municipality’s waterfront by the boardwalk along Shallowbag Bay and includes a mix of condominiums, single family homes and a marina, as well as lots designated for a boutique inn and office and retail space.

The proposed text amendment includes a provision exempting hotels from the 20,000-square-foot limit placed on commercial buildings. It is also seeking a 44-foot height allowance for hotels, compared to the 36-foot height limit now in place for other commercial structures.

Jason Borland, owner of Roanoke Island Inn, said he was concerned that the Marshes Light master plan was no longer being adhered to. “I think what we bought into – that original plan and how that makes Marshes Light an extension of downtown – that’s great and I think everyone is excited for that,” Borland told commissioners. “But undisclosed square footage…it doesn’t feel good.”

“I can’t believe the town would now be considering allowing SAGA to change the plan they have downtown on the water,” said resident Kathryn Fagan. “What people come here for is to see the little historic town on the water. They don’t want to come to see big fancy buildings. They don’t want to see a big hotel on the water.”

At the Oct. 2 meeting, SAGA Chief Executive Officer Sumit Gupta sought to reassure residents that he was still planning on constructing a boutique hotel, one that adheres to the original 60-room, three-story CUP.

“We want to do a nice boutique hotel there,” stated Gupta, but he noted that when planning the structure, designers arrived at a square footage total of just above 24,000 square feet. “That’s spread over three stories,” he noted. “My purpose was not to get more rooms, but to make the rooms nicer.”
He also told the crowd that the height allowance was intended to compensate for a requirement to lift the hotel up about six feet, as well as to achieve a desired ceiling height of nine to nine-and-a-half feet – a feature that he said will make for a nicer hotel.

Town Manager James Ayers explained that the text amendment request was placed on the commissioners’ meeting agenda prior to going to the planning board in an effort to “provide daylight and transparency to this issue, as there has been significant community interest in this topic.”

Ayers added that by putting it on the commissioners agenda first, and having commissioners refer the request to the planning board, “We can reach more people in the audience, plus it’s televised so people who can’t attend the meeting can view it on cable television.” Ayers said that approach allowed more opportunity for the public to voice an opinion throughout the process.

The Manteo Planning Board will take up the issue for the first time at its Oct. 8 meeting. The board of commissioners also set a public hearing on the text amendment request for its Dec. 4 meeting.

“You folks will be the final say on this issue, I can promise,” Mayor Bobby Owens told the crowd, adding later at the meeting’s conclusion that, “I want to make it very clear for everyone sitting here tonight, and all the residents of Manteo, that there will have ample time for plenty of public hearing. Nothing is being done behind the scenes or under the table.”





  • charlie

    Saga took over the development knowing full well what the requirements were…It seems Saga always wants a little more and then plays hardball. MegaMcmansions on the beach are a large part of Saga’s legacy while ruining what the Outer Banks is. All their brochures talk of maximizing income. If they cannot build a 60 room building within the requirements, Saga can reduce the number of rooms..If this does not fit in their profitability numbers, they don’t have to build anything…The town should not bend. Saga should follow the rules…

    Friday, Oct 4 @ 9:19 am
  • Travis

    Give SAGA an inch and they’ll try to build a condo in it.

    Friday, Oct 4 @ 9:40 am
  • Jackie

    As a resident of Marshes Light, I bought knowing a hotel was approved in a conditional use permit (CUP) . I did not buy and build with any anticipation of a taller and bigger hotel to be built. Saga does say they are sticking to 60 rooms but also adding a small restaurant and event area that can host 175 – 300+ people.
    Most residents are concerned about parking, first and foremost. Any Manteo resident knows how serious parking issues are downtown which affects all retailers and restaurants. During the last two years, residents have had numerous meetings with Saga. Only recently did the discussion begin to use the term “waterfront hotels”. Therefore this is no longer just a Marshes Light issue.
    The existing CUP should stand! All citizens of the town of Manteo need to be aware and speak out! Please!

    Friday, Oct 4 @ 11:51 am
  • surf123

    Has anyone noticed that SAGA regularly goes in front of the local governments asking for same type of exception. It is time to cut them off and let them follow the rules as they are written. When you buy land you assume the risks and unknowns and have to live with them. Any regular homeowner would be laughed out of these meetings if they were asking for rules to be bent for them.

    Friday, Oct 4 @ 4:45 pm
  • Janmason

    Saga wants to and is changing to landscape of the Outerbanks! How sad for such a beautiful , serene place! They’ve already ruined it with maga event homes! So out of touch with one of the last small beach towns in NC. A Greedy company! Next it will be Cape Lookout area, then Atlantic Beach area, then Wilmington and the smaller towns there, then Calabash and Shallotte. Ruining beaches of NC.

    Friday, Oct 4 @ 6:08 pm
  • Cliff Claven

    Sumit Gupta is like Donald Trump – he will do anything he can get away with. Manteo needs to make SAGA stick to the original agreement and not bend at all.

    Saturday, Oct 5 @ 12:04 am
  • Norm

    It’s 2019, you lost… get over it.

    Saturday, Oct 5 @ 2:07 pm
  • Amy phillips

    Your attitude saddens me. Why so harsh? Be divisive does not get us anywhere.

    Monday, Oct 7 @ 12:43 pm
  • Steve

    Saga Destruction

    Saturday, Oct 5 @ 6:33 am
  • GT705

    I do agree that Saga gets way more consideration and attention than an average citizen would, but accusing Saga of ruining the Outer Banks is ridiculous. Otherwise, blame that on every other developer that has built something since the original bungalows.

    Saturday, Oct 5 @ 9:28 am
  • Angela Hecke

    Please do not consider selling Manteo out by altering the land-use guidelines for this project. Take pride in upholding the Planning Commission’s decisions to protect our fine town. They are there for sound reasons. Give our local B&Bs and accommodations first consideration. Locals have personal skin in the game and deserve their community to have their backs.

    By the way, has anyone noticed how many condos at Shallowbag Bay are for sale or are in foreclosure? Undersold rooms at corporate hotels should not place local owners competing with discount rates.

    We have lovely places for folks to stay. There are places up the beach to handle overflow.

    I probably sound like an old fogie, against progress. But, I simply don’t want to see Manteo lose her ability to flirt with the world. She needs to maintain her charm, the Manteo Way.

    Saturday, Oct 5 @ 12:38 pm
  • Toni

    Mayor Owens, please don’t take a bite of the SAGA apple. Southern Shores Mayor Bennett , 3 of his Council members certainly have. Despite a poll taken a couple years ago where the majority of SS residents opposed such large structures, they have been built, forever changing the face of our residential community. Please listen and abide by what your residents want. SAGA is not going to be satisfied until they have ruined the Outer Banks and made as much money as they can. SAGA does not care about the folks about the Outer Banks , it is that simple.

    Saturday, Oct 5 @ 1:20 pm
  • Edna

    There is absolutely no reason or need for a hotel in Manteo. I live outside of the town limits, but I have loved Manteo for 80 years. Everyone living in the island should have input on this issue.

    Saturday, Oct 5 @ 4:52 pm
  • surf123

    Seems like every project they work on they ask for a variance or change in rules. No one else would get these.

    Tuesday, Oct 8 @ 11:38 am