Dare Commissioners to explore zoning amendment to expand ADUs

By on January 19, 2022

Commissioner Rob Ross said the “housing issue is all-hands-on-deck”.

During its Jan. 18 meeting, the Dare County Board of Commissioners gave the county’s planning staff the green light to begin crafting a zoning text amendment that would allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in more zoning districts of unincorporated Dare County than currently allowed.

An ADU is a secondary, smaller dwelling either attached or detached from a principal dwelling unit. ADUs are independent units in the sense that they have full cooking, sleeping and living areas, with a stove or cooktop and associated electrical service.

County officials have said that the move would hopefully encourage the creation more affordable housing for the area’s workforce. Currently, ADUs are only permitted in areas of unincorporated Dare that allow duplex and multifamily structures, but not in the more restrictive single-family districts.

The quest to create more workforce and essential housing in Dare County has been difficult. And the county’s effort to build a 120-unit housing development on Bowsertown Rd. recently hit a major snag when the Town of Manteo rejected its request to connect the project with the town’s wastewater system.

In the past, one reason ADUs haven’t been allowed in the single-family districts is the potential conflict it creates in subdivisions with homeowners’ associations that fall within the unincorporated areas. However, in light of the limited inventory of affordable housing in Dare County, Board Vice Chairman Wally Overman brought the possibility up to be reconsidered

“We recognize there have been some conversations about covenants [in some neighborhoods] prohibiting [ADUs],” County Manager Bobby Outten said. “From the county perspective alone, we can’t regulate based on restrictive covenants…if it complies with our zoning, then by law we have to grant the permit. But if there’s a covenant issue, that’s between the property owners’ association and the homeowner.”

Outten also acknowledged at the meeting that changing the zoning ordinance to allow ADUs in most of the county’s zoning districts isn’t a minor task. “Before we start engaging in amending our ordinances to the scale we are going to have to…we want to be sure that there’s a comfort level,” he said.

He also pointed out that enforcement is a key element in any change. “Our challenge is not how to regulate it…our challenge is how do we enforce it…That’s a much more difficult problem,” he said. “If we aren’t able to enforce it, then we’ve created a problem instead of creating a solution.”

Judging by their comments, the commissioners appeared to be on board with a more expansive amendment.

“We’ve been working toward this very moment for some time,” asserted Commissioner Jim Tobin.

“The housing issue is all-hands-on-deck,” added Commissioner Rob Ross. “I don’t see a reason not to.”

Commissioner Ervin Bateman and other commissioners said they hoped that any ordinance would ensure that the ADUs aren’t all used as vacation units, such as an Airbnb or VRBO.

“We’ve got to find some way to regulate or put this in, so this is for long-term [housing],” Bateman asserted, adding that on his road in Kitty Hawk, there are four brand new Airbnbs. “Everyone is jumping on it. We’re not creating essential housing for our workers if we’re potentially creating Airbnbs all over the place.”




County Dare, North Carolina
Dare County Tourism Board

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Visitors Bureau will hold a public meeting to review the plans for an Outer Banks Event Center. The meeting will take place on Monday, June 6, 2022 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the Keeper’s Galley building at Haven on the Banks, 115 Dove Street, Nags Head North Carolina 27959.

Still in the conceptual phase, the Event Center is intended to provide suitable and flexible space for year-round events, concerts, sports, meetings, smaller tradeshows, galas and any number of other uses. Learn more about the benefits for visitors and residents and how the Event Center is planned to complement the new Soundside boardwalk that is being designed.

Staff will be on hand to answer any questions. For additional information, please visit our Event Center FAQ page.



  • Stephen

    It is a very difficult issue.But it is “breaking faith” with owners who either bought or built their homes in reliance on the integrity of the zoning regulation in force at the time. ADUs will further complicate population issues, lead to more traffic problems and will increase the demands on the County’s fire, safety , health and educational resources. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

    Wednesday, Jan 19 @ 8:02 pm
  • Thinking About the Future

    I say, good for them and it’s about time. Granted there must be septic regulations that are held to, and set backs. As it is there are quite a few “ADU” living situations going on in existing single family zoned areas but they’ve been overlooked for years…many of which are in some rather expensive sections of “Manteo Out”.

    Wednesday, Jan 19 @ 8:52 pm
  • Charles

    Is part of the problem about affordable housing for workers inadequate pay rates for the area? The old “living wage” bugaboo. Since the tourist season has extreme peaks and valleys, the affordable housing may be vacant four to six months a year if the workers are also seasonal. Think I’ve seen help wanted ads from at least one Outer Banks merchant who claims to provide housing.

    Wednesday, Jan 19 @ 9:36 pm
  • Just a mom

    Great idea…let people do with their land which they work for as they so desire…Remarkable idea. Of course as long as sanitary measures are met for the number of people on property it’s a no brainer… all the other hype like fire access, education, etc such things are no different if folks rent rooms in house as they do and same odds are there anyway for “safety “. Hope this comes to fruition.👍

    Wednesday, Jan 19 @ 9:46 pm
  • Chris Smith

    Charles lazy people just need to get off their ass and go back to work. And for the rest of the conversation all the towns are running out of land. So what better way to generate revenue for the towns put 2 dwellings on 1 lot

    Thursday, Jan 20 @ 7:38 am
  • Thinking About the Future

    Charles, good point about part of the problem likely being do to “inadequate pay rate” in some cases. That said, I think affordable housing needs are necessary for way more than “seasonal workers”. How about law enforcement, medical staff – including doctors, nurses, technicians, administrative staff, etc., let alone mechanics, boat builders and fabricators, people involved in the fishing industries, year round retail and tourist related businesses, our much needed teachers from pre-k to college and so many more?

    Thursday, Jan 20 @ 7:55 am

    It’s tough to build “affordable” housing here, with the cost of land, building materials, taxes and insurance all sky-high…If a homeowner puts forth the money time and effort to create an ADU, it shouldn’t be up to the county to define who it can be rented to – they don’t regulate the McMansions. An AirBnB-type rental may be the only way it will be profitable.

    And define “affordable” anyway. Based on comments on many Facebook housing groups, many long-time local people want 1980’s prices in 2022 homes. ADUs won’t solve that problem.

    Thursday, Jan 20 @ 8:04 am
  • Travis

    Yeah, what Stephen said.
    I didn’t watch the discussion, so maybe all that was brought up. But just creating opportunity for population growth without planning for the consequences of population growth is short-sighted. Given the retention problems in county government, they might want to get that sorted first before adding work to the understaffed.

    Thursday, Jan 20 @ 9:43 am
  • Mike Honcho

    This will not even come close to helping the affordable housing issue in this area. People with the means to convert existing space or construct new ADU’s on their property do not inherently care about the housing issue, they want to make money. So if I have an ADU that I can use as a weekly rental and make 2-3 times the annual income versus a long term rental that would give a local worker a place to live, I will choose the weekly rental eight days a week its a no brainer. Allowing ADU’s but somehow mandating that they can not be used for weekly rentals seems to me like a recipe for a lawsuit, and the enforcement would be a nightmare. It needs to be all or nothing; allow ADU’s to be rented however the homeowner wishes or do not allow them at all.

    Thursday, Jan 20 @ 9:48 am
  • Dylan

    I see it as two similar but different issues. Is it affordable housing for year round workers or is it seasonal housing for seasonal workers? So, it would seem to me that a determination of how much of what type of housing is needed would be important in finding a workable solution and a plan. ADU’s can command rents that are affordable for the tourists, but not for the workers. Money and greed is the driver of all tourist economies.

    Thursday, Jan 20 @ 12:01 pm
  • Wayne

    This very worrying because they are not thinking of home owner who pay taxes. They have had this problem for years they would not address it .now they want a quick fix and it well not work. They never think of home owner property values

    Friday, Jan 21 @ 8:44 am
  • Seeing/believing

    Anyone of the bleeding heart leftists on here thinking this is awesome because it will help with affordable housing is hilariously ridiculous. No one and I mean NO ONE is gonna build a little apartment or whatever that they can make 200 bucks a day renting out to tourists and instead rent it out year round and have some McDonald’s workers living in the backyard. Ridiculous solution in search of a problem.

    Saturday, Jan 22 @ 6:06 am
  • NC Beachy

    Seeing/believing you are absolutley right! On Hatteras we have wealthy investors buying uo all of the properties, tearing down restaurants and turning retail spaces into condos. All they are interested in is making money on VRBO’s. Where are these visitors going to eat and shop? Who is going to clean all of these rentals? They are pricing out all of the workers and are destroying our neighborhoods. They dont care.

    Sunday, Jan 23 @ 8:46 am
  • Stan Clough

    There are 2 different housing issues, all year housing for business that is not fluxionary and housing for business that is only for tourists and seasonal. In many ways they are the same. In many ways they are different. There is no easy fix and not everyone that owns a house is “greedy”. I am very tired of hearing that chant echoing thru comments and the direction of those comments toward homeowners. Not everyone is greedy.
    This is a unique place to live and work and it will not get easier until everyone, town and county governments, business owners, resident property owners and residents who do not own learn to respect each other and figure a way to live together for the benefit of our community. I am not “greedy” and do my part as I can. Who out there can say the same. There are harsh realities when property values rise in resort communities everyone needs to deal with. It is nothing new here, going on 20 + years.
    I hope we can deal with it as a community of rational humans, that seems rare in our world now. May God help us !

    Monday, Jan 24 @ 5:02 pm
  • NC Beachy

    Stan, I did not use the word greedy and was not even thinking that but it seems to have struck a chord with you. However I do think that people who only think of their own gain and not how their actions will affect the community could be described that way.

    Wednesday, Jan 26 @ 7:19 am