SAGA proposal nixed by Manteo Planning Board

By on May 12, 2021

On May 11, for a second time in a few months, the Manteo Planning and Zoning Board unanimously voted to recommend to the Manteo Board of Commissioners that it deny a zoning text amendment that would allow for a 72-unit housing complex on a four-acre property between U.S. 64 and Russell Twiford Road.

SAGA Construction, partnering with affordable housing developer Taft-Mills Group, submitted the application to the town earlier this year for the text amendment, which if approved by commissioners, would allow for 18 units per acre at the site. The proposed amendment changes would also allow for a density bonus that would pave the way for SAGA to build two market-rate apartments for each affordable unit built in the 72-unit complex.

The Planning and Zoning Board rejection came amid concerns that the development was too dense and out of character for the neighborhood – and with questions about whether the two dozen affordable units would be within the financial reach of workers.

The proposal by SAGA has sparked widespread community interest. A May 5 Manteo Board of Commissioners public hearing on the proposal drew more than a dozen speakers and numerous emails for and against the proposal. At that time, the commissioners voted to return to the proposal back to the planning and zoning board for further consideration.

According to the most recent figures offered by the applicant, if approved, the 24 affordable workplace rental units in the complex would range from $1,084 for a one-bedroom to $1,502 for a three-bedroom — with rental rates increasing by 4 percent a year thereafter.

SAGA’s Gupta told the board on May 11 that the piece of property had previously been approved by the town for Salt Meadow Landing, 20,4000 square feet of business and professional space, which he said could amount to a total of 15 businesses. And he suggested that SAGA might go that route if the housing proposal was not approved.

“I proceeded to purchase this property and move forward based on what the current zoning allowed,” Gupta asserted. “So that was my initial approach on this property and that is something we would go back to if this text amendment doesn’t go further.”

He also said it was through conversation with the county and others that the idea emerged that this could be a good site for affordable apartments. “And there’s limited property throughout the county which made me think, ‘Okay, maybe this could be a site for helping to put a dent in this affordable housing crisis.’”

During the public comment portion of the May 11 meeting, John Anderson spoke on behalf of The Peninsula homeowners’ association. That subdivision is adjacent to the proposed complex. Anderson noted that Manteo, per square mile, currently has 229 times more affordable apartments than the remainder of Dare County. With this project, he contended, “You open Pandora’s box for big city development on the doorstep of what Southern Living [magazine] calls the gateway to the Outer Banks.”

As a comparison to what is being proposed by SAGA, Manteo Town Planner Melissa Dickerson pointed to adjacent undeveloped property in unincorporated Dare County.

“I dove in and I researched the existing density for Dare County and found that the county zoning ordinance states the maximum dwelling density for multifamily structures shall not exceed ten units per acre,” Dickerson said. “And I thought that was important to know – that even the county on the adjacent property does not have a density that would allow eighteen units per acre…and this is literally just next door to the site.”

Prior to the vote to deny, Manteo Planning and Zoning Chair Sherry Wickstrom said that if rent increased by four percent every year as proposed, the affordable units in the complex would not stay that way.

“I would hate to have people disappointed thinking that there is this affordability in these twenty-four units and then within a handful of years, it not to be even close to affordable to people,” she asserted.

As for the current renderings of the complex, Wickstrom added, “We can’t say it enough, that we do have this Manteo way of building, and it’s more to us than just architecture. There’s so much that goes into it, there’s history, there’s our customs, there’s tradition.”

Board Member Jamie Daniels made the motion to deny the recommendation. Citing that the proposed text amendment was not consistent with the B-3 Entrance District, Daniels summarized the intent of the district.

“These regulations are designed to encourage historic tourism and provide an appropriate entrance to the one-hundred-year-old town, intended to create a village-like atmosphere of welcome and preserving an aesthetic quality appropriate to a small town,” Daniels said. “But if we look at these twenty-two changes that they are asking for, it does not meet the intent and that’s why I would make a motion to not recommend the approval of the amendments because I feel they are inconsistent with the statements of intent.”

SAGA’s text amendment application will return to the Manteo Board of Commissioners for consideration, likely at its June 2 meeting.

Manteo Commissioners send SAGA project back to Planning Board





  • Frank Moore

    Lets hope that the Commissioners listen to the Planning Board recommendation of NOT MAKE A TEXT change. SAGA has a habit of threating actions they will do if they do not get what they want. Gupta made that very clear in his comments to the Board. Within several years a server at a food establishment or even construction workers that works foe SAGA would be priced out of this housing within a few years, do the math ! Someone in a previous text noted that Gupta is actually proposing the old “bait and switch” game played so successfully by persons who only care for “self”. I propose that Gupta, through SAGA, has played this game over many years in the OBX and other locations but I hope that it will not be played here. The Commissioners need to listen to their professional staff of planners and not from someone who is in it only for the money. If SAGA really wanted to build affordable housing they would build it on land that is not waterfront. Think about that. SAGA has signs all over the place, so they could build and help with the housing issue on the OBX on one or two of those sites; does anybody think that Gupta will do anything like this ? Yes, I don’t think he will either.

    Wednesday, May 12 @ 2:23 pm
  • Joan

    I am not against SAGA, but kudos to the Town Board for this decision. 1) The threat to develop commercially if text agreement 2) 4% a year increase in rents 3) Making luxury apartments under the rouse of affordable housing has been proven in other municipalities 4) building to code as a maximum standard are hallmarks of this group and it is catching up with them. They will be gone in the next market downturn just like BDA.

    Wednesday, May 12 @ 2:40 pm
  • 60s Suzanne

    PLEASE do NOT approve the Saga Housing Project.
    When this proposal first came out I thought what a nice man to try to help with our affordable housing crisis.
    But almost $1100 for a one bedroom is not affordable. The renter would have to work two jobs to pay the rent and living expenses.
    Then I saw the part where the rent would go up 4% every year. What might be affordable one year might not be the next year, so that does not solve the housing crisis. 4% every year is unreasonable because our wages will not go up 4% every year.
    This is not about just not befitting the area, it is because it is still unaffordable housing.
    Also, please do not let this man threaten you with building businesses if he doesn’t get the housing project the way he wants it.
    His true colors have come through.
    He only sees us a place where he could make a lot of money.
    We do not need this kind of help.

    Wednesday, May 12 @ 3:02 pm
  • Options Options

    Might not be such a bad idea to take proposals from other companies beside just Saga.

    Wednesday, May 12 @ 4:15 pm
  • surf123

    The problem with affordable housing is that while needed is not the best use of land or housing. Once built, it will be rented to vacationers no matter what the leases say. The mainland is the only hope for affordable.

    Wednesday, May 12 @ 5:53 pm
  • Sean

    The only thing out of character is there is no affordable housing and its mostly weekly rentals here on the obx. I bet if they wanted them to build vacation rental houses it wouldnt be a dam question bout it!!!

    Wednesday, May 12 @ 7:25 pm
  • In the Know

    SAGA did the same thing to the KDH commissioners. He threatened to build an apartment at the end of First Street unless they allowed him to build a more densely populated subdivision. They caved and allowed a density change. They should have let him build an apartment. If he really wanted affordable housing then he would have build an apartment instead of absurdly overpriced homes.

    Wednesday, May 12 @ 7:49 pm
  • Anbgus McDonakd

    I think they should build a village of tiny homes and rent them out for $800.00 per month. just a suggestion. It would be a picturesque little village in keeping with OBX motif. In my humble opinion.

    Wednesday, May 12 @ 7:57 pm
  • Thinking About the Future

    Wise move on Manteo’s part. “The devil is in the details” rings true here. Very good comments by others who have posted thus far.

    Wednesday, May 12 @ 8:01 pm
  • Bud

    Need to pull his construction license, all he does is destroy.

    Thursday, May 13 @ 6:14 am
  • Debbie

    I agree with the idea of a tiny home community, but not for rentals. A certain percentage of homes could be rentals but ownership would ensure a more permanent solution for affordable housing. Each tiny home could be built to look like a Manteo landmark, I.e. the lighthouse, the old courthouse, the Christmas Shop, the Elizabethan Gardens main building, etc.

    Thursday, May 13 @ 7:06 am
  • ww

    It’s nice to see a jurisdiction making a decision based on common sense and not like some of our other greedy townships.

    Thursday, May 13 @ 8:05 am
  • sandflea

    You hit the nail on the head. But where are you going to build? Cheapest place is probably out in the swamp in East Lake region. I’m sure everyone will want to live out there. But then you have to build in the infrastructure to support it. Great job painting the outer banks into a corner so called “leaders” of the local townships. This place is going to implode on itself.

    Thursday, May 13 @ 9:39 am
  • Tri-Village

    Bud, I really would like to have a drink with you. I can not believe this guy is passively threatening the county and it is allowed. I think many have forgotten what made this place a sought after vacation destination. It was the fact that we were not Myrtle Beach, Ocean City or the Jersey Shore. The peacefulness of the beaches and non crowded outdoor activities is what people would wait 51 weeks out of the year for. That is no longer here. I use to think BD&A was the death of this place. I referred to that company as Buy , Destroy and Assimilate. I refer to SAGA as Such A Greedy A*$hole

    Thursday, May 13 @ 10:58 am