By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on June 3, 2021
After joining forces with the Dare County Tourism Board more than a decade ago to purchase property that would eventually become the Soundside Event Site, the Nags Head Board of Commissioners on June 2 unanimously approved the $2.3 million sale of its ownership stake back to the county board.
For several years, Nags Head has been seeking to sell its interest in the site. Now – pending a June 7 approval by the Dare County Board of Commissioners – the town will receive payments over the next 10 years beginning with a $600,000 initial payment by the end of this fiscal year.
“Wonderful, good news,” Mayor Ben Cahoon asserted after the vote. Cahoon later told the Voice that the town pursued the sale because it has other things it can do with that money, and that the time was right for the transaction.
“The economy is good, the Visitor’s Bureau is doing well,” he said. “We thought that [the tourism board] probably could spare the resources and buy our interest at this point. So, we were finally able to come to an agreement. It’s taken two or three years to kind of keep it on the front burner to make it happen.”
After the initial payment of $600,000, the town would receive a minimum payment of $100,000 over the next 10 years,” Interim Town Manager Andy Garman told the board during the June 2 meeting. “It could be more, depending on the availability of funds from the Tourism Board.”
The Town of Nags Head partnered with the Tourism Board twice around 2007 on two separate land purchases – one being the former Windmill Point property. At the time, Cahoon said, the tourism board did not have enough funding to purchase the properties and the Nags Head board believed having that kind of space in Nags Head would also benefit the community.
Since then, the town has not had any involvement in subsequent purchases to expand the site, and under an agreement with the Tourism Board, has not financially contributed to improvements at the site. Other than the town’s zoning regulations, sole operation and management of the property also was in the hands of the Tourism Board through the years.
In recent years, the Tourism Board’s Event Site Advisory Group has explored options and conducted an economic feasibility study for developing everything from a convention center to an event center and hotel on the site. So far, none those options have come to fruition, and some have been met with resistance in the community.
The Dare County Tourism Board has also purchased the Dairy Queen property to the south of the site, the adjacent Pamlico Jack’s Soundfront Restaurant, and South Beach Grille, located on the east side of U.S. 158 across from the event site.
Commenting on Nags Head selling its interest in the site, Outer Banks Visitors Bureau Executive Director Lee Nettles noted that, “As time went on, I think the town had other priorities for the money and requested the Tourism Board purchase [their interest].The Tourism Board wants to be good neighbors…the town made the request and the board felt it could satisfy the request and do so in a way that didn’t prevent it from doing other development.”
There has been at least some disagreement in recent years between the town and Tourism Board. In March of 2020, the Nags Head Board of Commissioners declined a request by the Soundside Event Site Advisory Board to dedicate staff resources to investigate the feasibility of the event site tapping into a nearby sewer system to possibly accommodate a hotel and convention center on the property, as well as to consider reduced parking standards at the site.
“If the tourism board wants to do all those studies, that’s fine,” asserted Commissioner Mike Siers during the meeting when the request was rejected. “But I haven’t seen a citizen in Nags Head who wants a hotel/convention center on that site to where the Town of Nags Head should spend our time, staff and taxpayer money to research something for the tourism bureau.”