KDH ponders ways to ease housing crunch

By on October 22, 2022

Commissioner BJ McAvoy questioned government’s role in addressing the long-term housing crisis.

The Kill Devil Hills Board of Commissioners and Planning Board met in a two-hour-long joint work session on October 20 to discuss potential regulatory changes and incentives it could initiate to encourage more long-term housing in the municipality.

“This is something that the Board of Commissioners has focused on for some time now, and has taken strides,” Assistant Planning Director Cameron Ray told the group at the start of the meeting, but he said that the board has expressed interest in continuing their efforts with more dynamic changes.

Morgan Deane, a senior at First Flight High School who is interning with the Kill Devil Hills Planning Department, spoke during the work session and brought home the magnitude of the problem for young people on the Outer Banks.

“I could go through my entire contact list now and ask people if they plan on living on the beach after they graduate and ninety nine percent will say no, because we can’t,” she said. “I think it’s definitely an issue that needs to be addressed everywhere down here because realistically, you’re going to have a fairly large group of young people who are not going to return to be in the professional workforce and eventually that workforce is going to reach retirement age.

“I can say for sure I’m not going to live here unless it gets fixed…I plan on being financially stable, not relying on four jobs just to make rent.”

The efforts the town has undertaken in recent years include changing the setback requirements for mixed use development in the commercial zone to give existing businesses or new businesses the opportunity to add apartments that can be used for employees.

The commissioners have also approved zoning changes to allow accessory dwelling units in the commercial and light industrial zones and adopted an ordinance allowing cluster homes – independent dwelling units between 500 and 2,500 square feet with a shared driveway – in the low-density residential zone with specific restrictions for long-term occupancy.

Additionally, the commissioners have amended the town ordinance by increasing the floor area ratio for multifamily development in the light industrial zone, which Ray said has been successful in encouraging more multifamily projects in the last few years.

After several hours of discussing possibilities to help ease the housing crunch, Mayor Ben Sproul noted that “there is certainly a lot of energy for trying to figure ways to make life better for folks and not just with parks and beach access, but the mix of housing.”

In the end, the group directed planning staff to investigate several avenues, including revising the existing workforce housing ordinance to remove income requirements to allow for flexibility for year-round housing. At the meeting, there was also support for exploring additional regulatory changes that would lessen regulations for duplex dwellings in residential zones as well as lessening setbacks for mixed use development in the Light Industrial Zone.

Another option on the table was to incentivize mixed-use development with zoning concessions for long-term development, including requiring no additional parking for residential uses. Planning staff was also directed to investigate grant funding possibilities for voluntary conversion from short to long-term housing.

Commissioner Terry Gray said he saw a lot of promise in the possibility of lessening setbacks for mixed use development. “There’s been a lot of discussion and a lot of expression from business owners to help solve this problem and I think that if [businesses] can have apartment units overhead, I think that would free up some other areas.”

For his part, Commissioner BJ McAvoy questioned the level of responsibility the municipality   has in solving the problem, “especially our town, as dense as it is, to solve this beach problem…I have a fundamental disagreement with a lot of people in this room on what the role of government is.”


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  • Miguel

    Lots of excellent, factual comments so far.
    Morgan Deane, the FFHS student member on the planning
    board, spoke a chilling statement when he described the large
    segment of young people who believe that abandoning the OBX
    upon graduation is practically a financial necessity.
    If our children can read the handwriting on the wall while
    our elected leaders continue studying the problem in search of a
    nuanced solution while sitting on their hands year after year, our future is very cloudy indeed.

    Monday, Oct 24 @ 11:32 am
  • Shorebird 1

    Interesting, there is nothing in the proposed KDH solutions that does not increase overall population density, which sooner or later, will kill the Golden Goose. Gripes by commenters against the mini-motels are misdirected…because the developers are functioning within the rules. If you don’t like these buildings, change the rules. Get involved…vote. Piling on more taxes to solve the problem, above and beyond the already high occupancy taxes, seems unlikely.
    One thing that does catch my eye is the suggested solution by the town of easing the restrictions on duplexes and “accessory dwelling units”.
    That cow is out of the barn. Has anyone been on Airbnb website lately to see all the duplexes that already exist in the single family residential zone? Many owners use phrase like “apartment” or “separate living space”…but some are flat out calling the duck what it is. One even states it in bold caps: THIS IS A DUPLEX. Seems to me that one area the government might step in is going the opposite direct of easing restriction, but instead enforcing the concept of Single Family Residential zoning. Allowing non-conforming duplexes and accessory structures will only feed the beast.

    Monday, Oct 24 @ 2:29 pm
  • MSgt-OBX

    Sadly, this story could have been written 10 or 20 years ago. The issue is the same, the severity of the housing shortage has worsened.

    Tuesday, Oct 25 @ 4:18 am
  • Obxer

    Too many air b&bs and vrbos……

    Tuesday, Oct 25 @ 7:40 pm
  • Daryl

    How much did the town of KDH sell that corner lot across from Harris Teeter for? Why sell land when its very limited. Why a car wash was the best idea to sell the land for. Couldnt this land have been used to build a small unit with maybe 4-8 units in it? That would equate to 1192-1196 unuts needed left to go! Is that money being used to develop affordable housing?

    Thursday, Oct 27 @ 10:20 am
  • Charles

    Meanwhile on HI the trees continue to get knocked down for more lots and more 6-7 bedroom vacation homes. The restaurants continue to close.

    Hope the tourists enjoy eating out at Dollar General.

    Friday, Oct 28 @ 1:34 pm
  • Charles

    Let me see, rent my place out for $1,500 a month to someone year round or $3,000 a week ?

    What to do ?

    Friday, Oct 28 @ 1:38 pm