By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on November 7, 2019
In the face of widespread opposition to the idea, the Nags Head Board of Commissioners on Nov. 6 unanimously voted to remove a proposal from its meeting agenda that would have eliminated existing lot size requirements for larger homes — effectively ending further consideration of the measure.
“I don’t feel the board was ever in favor of large homes,” Commissioner Michael Siers said, before making the motion to permanently remove the item from the agenda. Commissioner Renee Cahoon seconded the motion.
Following the vote, Mayor Ben Cahoon told a crowded meeting room that the proposal was “a dead issue at this point.”
Both Siers and Renee Cahoon initially voiced support for the idea of eliminating of the town’s 16,000-square-foot lot requirement on homes of 3,500 square feet or larger, with Siers first bringing the concept to commissioners in June. Since then, however, the measure has failed to gain support from both the planning board and town staff and was met with significant opposition in the community.
In October, the Nags Head Commissioners voted to continue a public hearing on the matter until its Nov. 6 meeting, noting at the time that several commissioners were not present and that postponing action on the amendment would allow more time for the public to provide feedback.
At that October hearing, a number of residents spoke out against the concept, including Lauren Nelson, a local realtor and resident of Nags Head. She told the commissioners the proposal was a “short-sighted plan that would move the development of Nags Head in the wrong direction.”
North Carolina Coastal Federation’s Michael Flynn argued at that same hearing that the amendment would increase density, adding to the volume of stormwater runoff into coastal waters.
Shortly before the Nov. 5 municipal election, the Voice interviewed the three candidates running for the Nags Head Board of Commissioners – Renee Cahoon and Kevin Brinkley, who both won, and Keith Sawyer, who lost in his bid. Both Brinkley and Sawyer said they opposed eliminating the lot size requirement and Cahoon indicated she had not received any public input supporting an effort to eliminate it.
Had the text amendment been adopted, a town staff memo concluded that the total number of lots not excluded from large residential dwellings due to lot size would jump from 697 to 3,204 in the C2, CR, R-1, R-2 and R-3 districts alone.
The lot size issue in Nags Head has surfaced as Outer Banks communities continue to grapple with how to regulate what are critically referred to as ‘mega-mansions’ along the oceanfront.
In 2015, the N.C. General Assembly stripped local municipalities’ ability to regulate the size of homes by the number of bedrooms. Since then, municipalities have relied on a variety of strategies to maintain some control on the size of event homes, including square footage restrictions, set back and parking requirements and occupancy limitations.