Dare Board approves $3.1M purchase of Pamlico Jack’s

By on November 4, 2019

Some concerns arise over Soundside Event Site plans

After a discussion that occasionally grew a bit edgy, the Dare County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 4 unanimously approved the Dare County Tourism Board’s $3.1 million acquisition of Pamlico Jack’s Restaurant as part of an expansion plan for the Soundside Event Site in Nags Head.

Several weeks ago, at its Oct. 17 meeting, the Tourism Board confirmed the purchase of the seafood restaurant owned by Mike Kelly through its long-term restricted fund. At the Nov. 4 commissioners’ meeting, Visitors Bureau Executive Director Lee Nettles said the Pamlico Jack’s purchase “will add to available parking for current events and provide immediate outdoor space for events” and “will also allow us the opportunity to give full consideration to the consultant’s recommendation of developing a large indoor event venue for the Outer Banks.”

Back in July, the Tourism Board heard a presentation delivered by Johnson Consulting President Charles Johnson that included three options for further developing the Soundside Event Site. All three of those options included an event center. Two of them also included a hotel.

Before the discussions with the county commissioners at the Nov. 4 meeting, a concern was raised about those plans during the public comment period when speaker Charlie Parker questioned some numbers in the consultant’s proposal, such as projections that the revamped site could host well over 100 events a year and would also run an operating deficit.

Asking for broader citizen input, Parker added: ‘’I wonder if these presentations have forgotten one thing — what do the people of Dare County want to happen here?”

In his remarks, Nettles noted that while the site is projected to run annual operating deficit of about $250,000, the “direct spending” revenue as a result of these events would bring in somewhere between $12 to $20 million dollars into the local economy.

During the discussion with the commissioners, the primary skeptic about the Soundside plans was Commissioner Jim Tobin, owner/operator of Pirate’s Cove Yacht Club and Marina, who voiced concerns about a public entity such as the Tourism Board competing with private businesses in the Outer Banks already crowded events industry.

Noting the number of event sites on the Outer Banks that are state or publicly owned, Tobin asked Nettles: “Do you feel these government agencies should be competing with the private sector?”

Noting the consultant’s recommendation that the multi-purpose event venue on the site be 30,000 square feet, Commissioner Steve House observed, “it’s a large building.”

Nettles responded that “it’s the tradeoff of maximizing the opportunity, but at the same time, we don’t want anything we put out there to be unsuccessful.”

In response to questions, Nettles also noted that “the final scope and size” of an event center have not been determined and that there haven’t been discussions at this point of expanding the site further north.

Several of the commissioners also offered support for the Tourism Board and the Soundside project.

Dare Board of Commissioners Vice-chair and Tourism Board Chair Wally Overman, said the effort to expand and develop the site “has been done methodically with a great deal of thought put into it.”

Commissioner Ervin Bateman said that a facility that would bring off-season events to Dare County “can be beneficial. That’s the long-range implications of what I’m looking at.” And Commissioner Danny Couch added that, “the Tourism Board has spent a lot of years building our brand. It is built.”

For his part, Tobin asserted that, “I’m not really opposed to getting that [Pamlico Jack’s] land. The problem is, we haven’t seen your site plan,” he added, asking Nettles to bring more information to the board of commissioners. “I want to see all the numbers.”

In an interview after the discussion had ended, Nettles told the Voice that an eight-person advisory board, that will hold its first meeting on Dec. 3, will be given the task of focusing on the future of the Soundside site and the event center.

The members of that board include Nettles; Tourism Board Member and Chamber of Commerce Board Member Myra Ladd-Bone; Nags Head Commissioner and Tourism Board Member Webb Fuller; Dare County Commissioner Rob Ross; Hotel/Motel Association representative Tonia Cohen; Nags Head Mayor and architect Ben Cahoon; longtime Outer Banks civic leader and former Tourism Board Chair Ralph Buxton; and event host and Bearded Face Productions owner Mike Dianna.  

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  • Runnerguy45

    All the board members represent business.
    This project has already been approved by the big business power groups.
    They know exactly what the want and they do not care what the residents think.
    I wish the politicians would just be honest and tell the people “we do not care what you think we want more money”

    Tuesday, Nov 5 @ 6:45 am
  • surf123

    The writing has been on the wall for sometime. @Runnerguy45 is exactly right in saying the BOC could care less about it’s constituents.

    The concept of building something that is guaranteed to lose money makes no financial sense because it will lose way more than the projection and if the project made any sense private enterprise would have already done it. Torbin is correct to be concerned as he will be adversely impacted. We will be paying for this forever.

    Other issues I have are with the sight line disappearing under a wall of concrete when the hotel is built and make no mistake it will be built. At this point all we can is hope they will follow the building code and not make an exception for themselves in regards to building height. I’ll add that the brand Couch and his associates built is not what anyone wanted except for them. We had a brand before they got involved and it was a small town beach vibe.

    Their brand has:
    1. Wiped out small one-of businesses. Those still standing should consider themselves lucky.
    2. Killed a lot of local restaurants (related to #1).
    3. Brought in chain restaurants (related to #2) and stores turning the northern beaches into Anytown USA’s.
    4. Brought in a crime and amplified the drug problem.

    We are the government and we are here to help (by spending money and asking for more).

    Tuesday, Nov 5 @ 11:07 am
  • Sean Mulligan

    I love it when they throw around numbers. 250k deficit but it will bring in an additional 12 to 20 million dollars.The 250k is real the other numbers are make believe to sell the the idea to the public. Seems to me I remember when the county threw money at Air service same type of sales job totally FAKE numbers.

    Tuesday, Nov 5 @ 5:22 pm
  • Banx117

    Why do we need to expand an event site that will knowingly lose money, that spends much of the year empty and unused (almost everytime I drive by it except when a cop is sitting there) to try and bring in “more business” from more possible, NOT guaranteed, events? Why not use the money FOR the LOCALS?! Improve the lighting over the beach road crosswalks, improve the draining so rain doesn’t flood, other improvements for the area besides making buildings that may see use but will probably be empty for most of the year and are GUARANTEED to lose money in the hopes that they MAY make more.

    Commissioners PLEASE get in touch with the regular people that you supposedly try and work for and help, as people who are supposed to serve the public you seem awfully disconnected from what would be better for the public and not for your own pockets. It seems to be pretty much every single politician out there today is more worried about filling his own Pockets instead of helping the people that they work for which is causing a very large Rift between the classes that will only get worse.

    Tuesday, Nov 5 @ 7:28 pm
  • Sand Flea

    I think what may be important to the commissioners is that they may one day get their name engraved on a brick or plaque or rock stating how they made the park possible; therefore immortalizing them.

    Wednesday, Nov 6 @ 9:45 am
  • Forbes Kennedy

    This is precisely why my missus and I decided–after many years of wanting to–against buying in the northern OBX. We thought we’d retire near Corolla; silly us. Having visited since 1987, we have watched the de-evolution. (Yes…we’re ALL DEVO!). We bought in Oak Island. Now, I do not harbor illusions that OI will remain pristine forever. But, frankly, at least we, our kids and grandkids have a place before it, too, ends up like a KDH or NH.

    I admire Mike Kelly’s acumen and skill; I enjoyed his restaurants immensely. And I wish him a fruitful retirement. However, the idea that Kelly’s is now replaced with an overgrown vacant building and–likely–a sanitized, sterile chain market from Europe is a perfect metaphor for what is happening in Dare and Currituck.

    Wednesday, Nov 6 @ 10:06 am