Did Manteo pull the plug on Bowsertown project?

By on January 6, 2022

Town board denies county request to link to wastewater system

Bowsertown Road Site. (Dare County)

Dare County’s proposed essential housing project on Bowsertown Road hit a major roadblock on Jan. 5 when the Manteo Board of Commissioners failed to grant a request by Dare County Manager Bobby Outten to allow the project to connect with the town’s wastewater system.

After more than an hour of tense discussions in which board members expressed concern about the impact the Roanoke Island project could have on Manteo, Commissioner Jason Borland made a motion to allow the connection. That motion failed when it did not get second.

The request from Outten was a final step in several years of work to develop a conceptual plan for essential housing at the Bowsertown site. In February 2020, the county commissioners contracted with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Development Finance Initiative to identify potential sites and eventually solicit a developer. Bowsertown was identified as the most feasible and at its December meeting, the Dare Commissioners voted to move forward with soliciting a developer to partner with the county on a 120-unit mixed income development that included an $8 million investment by the county.

But without permission from Manteo officials to tap into its sewer system, the county finds itself back at the drawing board. Local officials have indicated that without that connection, the project would be less attractive to potential developers and would require a costly on-site package treatment plant, which would likely result in less units.

When interviewed by the Voice after the Jan. 5 meeting, Outten said that county officials will have to reevaluate how to move forward without the anticipated sewer connection.

“If the town doesn’t want to participate in the solution to our workforce housing problems, then we’ll figure out how to do it without the town and see what that means for that site,” he said.

During the discussions at the Jan. 5 meeting, the Manteo Commissioners voiced concern over the impact of the project on traffic and schools as well as the strain it would put on municipal resources such as fire and police. The loss of the municipality’s small-town feel was also a stated concern.

Commissioner Ruth Stetson questioned Outten about what made this particular project a priority. “This is going to take a lot from our wastewater treatment facility,” she said, adding that “only a sliver of teachers could live in this [complex] as opposed to maybe dedicating teacher housing.”

Commissioner Sherry Wickstrom voiced concern over the traffic congestion such a project would create. “That’s a lot of people to put at the end of Bowsertown Road,” she said, asserting that a traffic study should have been done. “I can promise you there will be impacts to traffic.”

Commissioner Darrell Collins said that a recent survey during the updating of the town’s master plan indicated that the number one priority of town residents was maintaining a small-town atmosphere.

“Ironically, [priority] number eight was affordable housing. I think affordable housing isn’t as important to the people of Manteo as we believe it to be,” he added. “It seems to me this is a one-way deal here.”

Manteo resident Beth Storie spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, also voicing concerns over the impacts of such a project.

“We have worked for decades to keep the village atmosphere of Manteo, not just the downtown area,” she later told the Voice. “Once we overbuild Manteo, we can’t go back.”

In his interview with the Voice, Outten discussed some of the challenges of building an on-site wastewater facility at the Bowsertown site.

“We’ll just have to balance all the costs and see if there is a more economical, efficient way to do it there or somewhere else,” he said.  “We’ll go back and look at the site…if we have to treat the wastewater ourselves and if we can make it work, then we will.”

But he added that there are other sites the county will be looking at as well for an essential housing project “because we’ve got to do something to address this problem. We can’t just ignore it and hope it will go away.”





  • WindyBill

    Well, it looks like if an employer want employees, they’d best buy a house for them. Should’a done it when they were cheap.

    Thursday, Jan 6 @ 4:13 pm
  • Sue Waters

    Affordable housing is a necessity to support our “little village”. What is being projected is an elitist attitude…… of course, you own an entire block.
    I live on bowsertown in the Croatan Condo and do not relish the idea of extra traffic if the affordable housing is built. However, where are people who aren’t wealthy or those who haven’t inherited property supposed to live? There is an extreme divide between the haves and have nots and it is growing greater.

    Thursday, Jan 6 @ 6:59 pm
  • Sandy

    Necessary jobs and housing being blocked by small-minded bureaucrats. Very disappointing.

    Thursday, Jan 6 @ 7:24 pm
  • Freenusa

    The food/beverage tax and lodging tax have both been breaking records, month after month, for close to 18months. Businesses are not operating employless but they can not work their employees to a frazzle. I believe, it is not an employee shortage but the super need for increased services. People complain about the OBX is growing too fast, so true and Roanoke Island does not need multi-unit “affordable housing”.

    Thursday, Jan 6 @ 7:48 pm
  • P Nash

    why cant they go to East Lake or somewhere like that ..it is more spread out and going over the new bridge is pretty quick..

    Thursday, Jan 6 @ 10:35 pm
  • Josh

    “We’ll go back and look at the site…if we have to treat the wastewater ourselves and if we can make it work, then we will.”

    Willing to get into the sewer business in Manteo but not willing to get into the sewer and waste treatment business on Hatteras Island?

    It was recently said by Outten that the sewer business is not a business the county wants to be in.

    They also mentioned re-zoning that area from 56 to accommodate 120 or so in a former article. How did that go over?

    Maybe it’s time to get a new county manager that isn’t overwhelmed by serving two overpaid positions in our county. Pick a job and stick with it. Might be able to get something done.

    Friday, Jan 7 @ 3:28 am
  • Spooneyrae

    Doesn’t Dare own a hug tract of undeveloped land in Mann’s Harbor? Perfect location to address the supposed need?

    Friday, Jan 7 @ 7:20 am
  • Sean

    Freeintheusa the employee shortage is real for most businesses. Why are resturants closed a couple days a week to give what they have a break. Popular resturants posting shorter hours and to be patient for lack of staff. Even my dentist had to change my appointment for lack of a hygienist. And just look how easy it is to get hired right now. What are you retired and don’t leave your home

    Friday, Jan 7 @ 8:01 am
  • Daryl

    If you were to look at the prices of homes with the proximity to a sound or ocean north of us like VA or MD and then look south of us like Wilmington and SC, our property is still priced lower. So this market will continue to grow as people can afford it over the above mentioned areas. This has been expected to happen when the RE bubble burst. The market just grew faster than expected. Pretty much the same people who killed affordable housing when it was being built during the bubble when prices tanked and contractors were going under haven’t changed. Where did the houses that were built go? Oh yeah, the towns decided to not enforce the price control measure that was written in the deed and let those first owners of affordable homes sell them at market value and take all the money out. I should have bought as many of them and done the same thing! hindsight is 20/20.

    Friday, Jan 7 @ 8:16 am
  • James

    It sounds like Communist China in the 1970’s where state owned enterprises housed it’s workers so they can work at the local factory. So now the private sector is asking the state / county to build and house workers so they can afford to live and work at low paying jobs to support the booming tourist economy of Dare and Currituck County. It did not work out too well for Chairman Mao in the 70’s and I doubt it will work out now as the model proved to be a failure which is why the Chinese transformed their economy (without war or bloodshed) into a market driven one that is based on the simple concept of supply and demand. In other words its better to live by a beautiful stream in Arkansas where you can by a nice acre of land and a house for 20 grand instead of slinging hash at an OBX restaurant and live in a rental unit in East Lake for $1500 per month + the cost to commute not to mention the fact that you threw away your beach chair and umbrella because the last time you actually went to the beach was 10 years ago.

    Friday, Jan 7 @ 9:35 am
  • Joan mcminn

    Find an area up closer to the high schools in KDH. We don’t need all these banks and gas stations they r continuously building. Dare county is running out of property to build on. How about the land on 64 as you come out of Mann’s harbor. It’s swampy but that didn’t stop them from building pirates cove.

    Friday, Jan 7 @ 9:45 am
  • Billsnc

    Dare dodged a bullet!

    If Saga (or another builder) was smart, they’d build a bunch of apartments and townhomes on dare mainland.

    Friday, Jan 7 @ 10:33 am
  • Charlie Watson

    If Manteo doesn’t want the property to be developed into affordable housing then I say that the County revert to its previous use & build another garbage truck dump transfer station…
    I dare say that if they don’t want to progress then they must want to go backwards…
    SHANE on Manteo Commissioners

    Friday, Jan 7 @ 2:13 pm
  • Freenusa

    I think the perfect use for use for the Bowsertown parcel, owned by Dare County, previously the garbage dump and garbage transfer station, would be, Mount Trashmore Dare😃 what a wonderful preservation of precious Roanoke Island land. Maybe “Friends Of Roanoke Island” should take notice. Roanoke Island does not need multi-unit, Affordable Housing.

    Friday, Jan 7 @ 9:20 pm
  • Surf123

    Sewage treatment on Hatteras Island would be a disaster for residents with a sewer eliminating the lot/septic field size dictating the number of bedrooms. It would be a realtors dream.

    The Manteo commissioners voted for those who elected them.

    Mainland is the solution, but more housing will only hurt wages. More workers means wages will go back being suppressed as there will not be any competition for employees. Why pay more when there are excess potential employees.

    Saturday, Jan 8 @ 10:19 am
  • Maybe Manteo doesn't need any employees?

    Hello Manteo, that land is owned by the county, it was a privilege that it was disclosed to you guys in advance. Remember Hooters, bought under an ” individuals” name then switched at the time the signs went up??
    I guess you guys are set for employees, good for you, but don’t expect to go to any establishment in NH , KDH, etc, and be seated in less than an hour.
    It’s really sad that hard willing workers are being treated like pond scum when we have been doing our best and trying to not snap while spending less time with our own families to keep everyone happy.
    If I was a tourist, I may choose to go elsewhere, but more importantly the choice, or should I say solution to everyone’s problem is to leave.
    Hope the retirees and/or nay sayers don’t want to eat out, but are the leftover locals willing to put on an apron and work 60 to 80 per week after you have already earned your pension? Probably not.
    My point is give people a chance!! Brick walls are never fun to hit, it’s a dangerous gamble, you could be left with nothing. Remember tourism is the root of income here, always has been.

    Saturday, Jan 8 @ 12:49 pm
  • No Commies

    What happened to the old days when if you wanted somewhere to live you got an actual job, saved your money and bought one? Why do we have this widespread handout mentality now where people aren’t expected to so anything and we just give them everything?

    Saturday, Jan 8 @ 10:24 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    No, you do realize that here a lot of hardworking people in this area who cannot afford to buy homes because of the discrepancy between wages and housing prices.

    Sunday, Jan 9 @ 9:50 am
  • Surf123

    Unlike most resort areas there is no land close to the beach for which the best use is local housing. The mainland is the only viable solution for most workers. It’s unfortunate but there is no other way to make it affordable other than a government handout and very few people want government-owned and/or operated housing anywhere near their neighborhood.

    Sunday, Jan 9 @ 3:07 pm
  • Stan Clough

    Surf123 is correct in the thoughts of how our geography makes our home unique. We are not all on an island, northern beaches are a peninsula streaching south from Virginia. Driving south from Virginia was stopped around 1978 with creation of a State Park in Virginia.
    Southern Dare County is Hatteras Island. Then there is Roanoke Island, 40 years ago the population center. Dare County has a mainland area, Manns Harbor and East Lake. Years ago Buffalo City was a thriving community, when there were no bridges, everything moved on the water. First roads were “log roads”.
    Now we are a very different community as folks move here from everywhere and we stress from so many wanting to live here and the problems caused by the businesses that people may want to be here for their consumption.
    Maybe those of us who remember having to travel to shop and buy necessities will appreciate what we have now and realize it is never going back, and we are all better for it.
    Things like this will work themselves out as they have always…

    Friday, Jan 14 @ 7:07 am