Sewer halt could slow Avon building projects

By on November 12, 2021

Kinnakeet Shores affected, state cites private treatment plant

By Matt Zabierek | Outer Banks Voice

Several residential and commercial development projects in Avon are likely to be held up in the coming months due to a sewer moratorium that state regulators recently issued to a privately-owned wastewater treatment plant.

The treatment plant, which was found to be noncompliant with previously issued state permits, serves an area of Avon that includes roughly 180 properties on the soundside of the Kinnakeet Shores community. The plant also serves several commercial businesses, including those in the Hatteras Island Plaza, Sun Realty, Ace Hardware, and the Avon Post Office.

Existing businesses and homeowners have maintained sewer services during the moratorium, which took effect Oct. 13, and the treatment plant is still fully operational, residents said. But because the sewer plant is prohibited from taking on more capacity, new construction cannot move forward because developers are not able to gain a sewer acceptance letter, which is needed to obtain a building permit and begin construction.

Those affected include several property owners and developers that either recently purchased vacant lots in the Kinnakeet Shores subdivision or are looking to rebuild on existing lots.

The moratorium comes at an “extremely bad” time, as the Kinnakeet Shores community has seen a boom of vacant lot purchases over the past year, said Ray Barto, a member of Kinnakeet Shores’ Board of Directors. He estimated that they have sold 70 to 80 lots in the last 12 months.

“Construction and lot sales have gone through the roof in the last nine months to a year, it’s incredible. We’ve never had anything like this going on,” said Pat Weston, longtime president of Greater Kinnakeet Shores Home Owners, Inc.

The moratorium could also delay development of homes at the Otter Point subdivision, which contains several dozen soundside homesites that would be tied into the treatment plant, according to Weston.

Barto and Weston noted the moratorium could impact a plan to demolish the vacant RC movie theater at the Hatteras Island Plaza and replace it with multi-family housing. The project, which many hope will bring much-needed affordable housing to the area, is currently pending county approval.

The treatment plant is owned and operated by developer Ray Hollowell Jr., who owns the plant under the name, “Outer Banks/Kinnakeet Associates, LLC.” State regulators inspected the facility on Aug.17 and determined the plant is “unable to adequately collect and treat waste tributary,” according to a Aug. 25 letter sent to Holloway by the state Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Resources.

“Both clarifiers, the tertiary filter, spray irrigation system, and back-up generator are not functional. Biosolids have not been removed from the plant for at least seven years,” the letter read. “Therefore, the Kinnakeet Shores’ WWTP is hereby placed on a sewer moratorium (with no new sewer taps, sewer extensions or additional flow) at its wastewater treatment plant effective October 13, 2021.”

Holloway did not respond to multiple voicemails.

Though the state letter refers to the plant as the “Kinnakeet Shores Wastewater Treatment Plant,” Barto and Weston explained that the resort community has nothing to do with management of the plant. The plant, they said, is owned entirely by Hollowell. They claim Hollowell has not performed proper upkeep at the plant over the years, leading the state to step in and enforce a moratorium.

“The best way I can sum it up is just dedicated neglect,” Barto said. “I think he just hasn’t paid attention to the sewer plant over all these years. Everyone pays their sewer fees, and I don’t think he’s put anything back into the sewer plant.”

The moratorium will remain in place until the plant meets all the conditions of previously issued permits and ownership has obtained written permission from the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission, the state’s letter read.

Weston believes it will be “a while” until the moratorium is lifted, while Barto said he is optimistic that the amount of development currently being held up will compel the county to intervene.

Dare County Manager Robert Outten said the county has been actively monitoring the situation and has had contact recently with the state Division of Water Resources, the state utilities commission, and the Kinnakeet HOA. But he added that the county is limited in what it can do and has no enforcement power over the privately owned facility.

“We don’t really have any tools other than to be able to give input and push people to move quickly so that we can get the problem resolved,” Outten said, adding that the county has not had contact with Hollowell. There is a private enterprise, according to Outten, that has expressed interest in purchasing the plant. The county, he said, is not interested in any sort of purchase.

“We would not prefer to be in the sewage business,” Outten said. “That’s a nightmare business and not something you choose to be in if you can help it.”

While Dare County could stand to lose revenue from a development standstill, Outten said his primary concern right now is to assist those impacted.

“If you’re a property owner and you purchased a lot that you were preparing to build and you spent money relying on your ability to have that sewer and now you don’t have it, that’s not fair or reasonable or right under any set of facts,” Outten said.


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Comments

  • Bud

    Something needed to be done about the destruction rate of the subdivisions, too bad it had to be this..
    Moratorium on new construction for all of a Hatteras Island is the best thing we can do for our communities right now.

    Saturday, Nov 13 @ 6:33 am
  • Dylan

    That sure is a load of crap……

    Saturday, Nov 13 @ 11:08 am
  • Stan Clough

    I am sure that when the Kinnakeet Shores was developed there was a wastewater treatment plan in place that had been approved by relevant State entities. It has been there for many decades. I am not familiar with other developments but any relative situation should be considered. Problems with effective operation need to be dealt with immediately and I am sure that is part of the original Permit .
    There may be a limit to traditional septic systems in that area but there is technology to make septics “New Green Technology”. This has the ability to save energy and improve the Quality of Life on our wonderful shores.

    Saturday, Nov 13 @ 6:27 pm
  • Protect our Beaches

    A 12 month construction moratorium implemented by local municipalities and the county would be a step in the right direction to help ensure that current septic and wastewater systems are adequate to safeguard the ecosystems of the Outer Banks.

    Sunday, Nov 14 @ 12:51 am
  • WindyBill

    This has been standard developer practice for decades. (Not specificly aimed at Kinnakeet Shores.) Non resident engineer is hired and certifies the sewer system. No bedroom limit specified. Developer oversells system sign-ons, typically nearby commercial users. Over capacity causes signon moratorium, unbuilt lot owners Screwed. Unbuilt lots have No value beyond Possible future use If and After sewer plant enlargement is ok’ed. Of course they get no property tax exemption. Original plant permit may specify # of homes or businesses, but so what? Excessive # of bedrooms and people per house overload the system. As water using businesses enlarge over time, that overloads the system. Well some many years ago the NC Real Estate Commission jumped in to fix that problem by prohibiting agents from all references to more bedrooms than on official permits with occupancy limited to 2 people per bedroom. In defference to developers and sewer plant contractors they did Not include sewer served homes in that regulation. This has happened in Ocean Acres, Monteray Shores, Manteo, and how many more? All so lots can be smaller to allow More houses on a given amount of land. Something stinks here, and it is not the sewage.

    Sunday, Nov 14 @ 12:36 pm
  • Sean Mulligan

    New Green technology septic is just a term for increased population density.

    Sunday, Nov 14 @ 9:40 pm
  • Bill

    Amazing that you have a for-profit manager of municipal waste with, apparently, little oversight. How is something like this allowed?

    This development looks poorly planned and poorly executed and they are still building fast and furiously with plans for more. State, County, and Town should all step in.

    Monday, Nov 15 @ 12:45 pm
  • Freenusa

    If they do not stop an get an up to date system at full capacity, another house should not be built. The owner should be totally responsible. The residents have paid their due to the owner. It will only get worse, ask the residents of Eagle Creek subdivision in Moyock. They have been inundated with raw sewage.

    Monday, Nov 15 @ 10:02 pm
  • Michelle

    No where in this article does it state that the system is overloaded. The article specifically notes that the system has not been maintained correctly, and that several mechanical items need to be fixed before the system can work properly. This fall specifically on the owner of the faculty. We pay our sewer bill, so where is the money going to? I own a property in Kinnakeet, someone needs to make the owner accountable for the maintenance and failure of the systems in place.

    Tuesday, Nov 16 @ 8:24 pm