Manteo Commissioners send SAGA project back to Planning Board

By on May 6, 2021

Rendering of the proposed Manteo housing development.

The Manteo Board of Commissioners on May 5 unanimously voted to return to the Manteo Planning Board a zoning text amendment application by SAGA Construction that would allow the company to build a 72-unit apartment complex dedicated to workforce and student housing.

The move means the fate of a project that has generated considerable public interest — on both sides — is still unclear. Slated for a four-acre property between U.S. 64 and Russell Twiford Road, the proposal for the project comes at a time when the workforce housing shortage on the Outer Banks has reached crisis levels.

The move by commissioners comes on the heels of a unanimous Planning Board recommendation on March 9 that the application to make changes to the B-3 Entrance Zone district be denied. In the meantime, SAGA returned to the town with additional changes to its application to address concerns that board had raised regarding the lack of density limitations and affordability requirements not addressed in the original text amendment proposal.

“It’s imperative that the planning board get a complete package and not just a piecemeal of a project,” Commissioner Christine Walker said before the vote. For her part, Board Vice Chair Betty Selby urged SAGA to produce whatever information the planning board needs as soon as possible.

“It needs to be addressed quickly,” Selby said of the project. “It is crucial and if the ball is in the town of Manteo, I guess that means we have to deal with it.”

If the project moves forward, the proposed complex would consist of three buildings with 24 units per building. SAGA is partnering the Taft-Mills Group, a developer of affordable housing communities in North Carolina, and if the complex is approved for low-income housing tax credits, SAGA Chief Executive Officer Sumit Gupta has said that the units will be rented for less than $1,000 per month.

The project has sparked significant community interest since it was proposed. In late April, the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce released a statement soliciting community support for the project, and during the May 5 public hearing, both Dare County Board of Commissioners Chair Bob Woodard and Vice Chair Wally Overman urged the Manteo commissioners to move forward with the project.

Through emails and during the public hearing, dozens of community members offered impassioned opinions in favor and against the project. For her part, Nancy Harvey, of Nancy Harvey Designs Inc. in Manteo, voiced support for the project in an email to town commissioners.

“We need workers, laborers, teachers and skilled craftsmen and women,” she wrote.
“Not everyone can afford a luxury home here in OBX. To make our economy work, we need all kinds of people. We need affordable housing or risk losing our reputation of pristine beaches, and friendly family establishments.”

The project, however, has prompted significant opposition among residents in The Peninsula, a neighborhood near the property.

“Thirty-four families own homes and/or property in the Peninsula Subdivision,” wrote John Anderson, who added that the project would be built very close to the only entrance and exit to his neighborhood. “Your forthcoming decision will impact all of them.”

Nicol Thrash, an employee at Manteo Middle School, was one of the speakers during the public hearing to throw her support behind the proposed project. “I see people losing houses,” she said. “I am in the school system and I see children and families coming and going in two or three months because they can’t afford to stay here.”





  • Thinking About the Future

    From my reading of this article it appears that this development will share the same entrance and exit as The Peninsula subdivision. Is my reading correct? Is there a viable alternative?

    Thursday, May 6 @ 12:30 pm
  • Da Salty Mullet

    Thinking, from what I could tell watching the meeting last night there will be two entrances and exits, one at RT Road and the other on Hwy 64. I feel like adding 72 to 144+ cars trying to make left turns across multiple lanes of traffic to get to their jobs over at the beach is going to create an even bigger traffic hazard at this intersection than already exists.

    Thursday, May 6 @ 2:56 pm
  • Craig Saunders

    The Outer Banks is literally starving for affordable housing and has been for years, and years.

    Now, there is an opportunity with a development partnership to actually get something done. Do not, ” Red Tape “, this very needed project off the rails.

    In addition, the need is so great for housing, I urge the deciding figures or governing bodies to make sure the folks that are already trying to live and work here get the first available units.

    Let’s take care of our people. Get this project done. Use it to attract similar investment.

    Thank you,

    Thursday, May 6 @ 4:29 pm
  • Think hard

    I am concerned about how the traffic will be handled. Also, this quote from the article is of note: “if the complex is approved for low-income housing tax credits, SAGA Chief Executive Officer Sumit Gupta has said that the units will be rented for less than $1,000 per month.” What will the rents be if the tax credits are not approved? Does anyone think that SAGA really wants to put low rent apartments on water view land?

    Thursday, May 6 @ 5:29 pm
  • ww

    This sounds like the outlawed ” bait and switch”. Low cost waterviews – right. Let’s see what percentage really ends up helping our workers.

    Friday, May 7 @ 7:18 am
  • Wojo

    This backwards thinking is exactly why we sold our house in The Peninsula and moved back to the beach. Manteo’s planning board seems adamantly opposed to anything new, fresh, modern, and now seem opposed to housing which is desperately needed if we are to have a workforce here. There is not a nice hotel in Manteo, there is not a new nice grocery store in Manteo. It has become a tired, old, antiquated town.

    Wednesday, May 12 @ 3:20 pm
  • National Park Service Employee

    I am a permanent employee who has dedicated 6 years of my life to NPS seasonal work here at the Outer Banks, before I finally became permanent here this year. I have been coming here since the 80’s and it has always been my “happy place”. I left a good permanent NPS job in Arizona because I am from the East, and this is where I want to settle near my family and friends. Although there is government housing provided for seasonal employees at my same pay grade, there is no permanent housing provided for me that I can afford (less than $1400 a month). I have searched the community diligently for rentals and even homes to purchase, and nothing!! I am currently having to drive from Buxton to Manteo daily (about an hour and 20 minutes minimal one way) just to have a roof over my head and keep my job! I have only been here since March, but if some affordable housing does not come available soon I will be forced to start looking in other areas of the country for work, and leave a job and the people I love!

    Friday, May 21 @ 2:45 pm