By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on November 3, 2022
Of the three seats on the seven-member Dare County Board of Commissioners that are on the ballot this election, only one race is actually contested. Incumbent Republicans Jim Tobin (District 1) and Rob Ross (District 2) are running unopposed.
The race where voters have a choice is the At-Large contest between first-term Republican incumbent Ervin Bateman and his Democratic challenger and political newcomer, Heather Euler.
In making her pitch to voters, Euler, a Buxton resident who has lived on the Outer Banks For 20 years and works in the service sector, makes the case for more balance on the board.
“I’m an educated, working-class woman from rural Dare County,” she said in a Voice interview. “We need more women, and we need more people from rural Dare County, and we need more working class.”
Bateman, a sixth-generation Outer Banker who served three terms on the Kitty Hawk Town Council and owns the Sugar Creek restaurant, cites his “thirty years of experience in giving back” to the community and as well as his constituent work on the board of commissioners.
“We’re responsible for 39,000 people [in Dare County] and we need to be accessible to 39,000 people,” he added, noting that he finds helping residents to be “empowering.”
In their Voice interviews, both candidates described building more housing that is affordable for working people as a top priority.
“We’ve got two companies” that have received millions in funding in “order to put essential housing throughout Dare County, with the hope and the vision to have them sporadically dispersed among all the municipalities and unincorporated Dare,” said Bateman, referring to the Woda Cooper and Coastal Affordable Housing LLC organizations.
Addressing community resistance that has sprung up around locating these housing developments, Bateman asserted that “the first thing you have to address is exactly what is essential housing. Essential housing is not what they call Section 8…Essential housing is for people…who are hardworking, honest people who are just starting out in life who need an affordable and essential place to live. And that’s between $1,000 and $1,400 a month in my opinion…I would refer to it more as ‘everyday people housing.’”
Addressing the housing crunch, Euler said “we’re basically living on an island so it’s always going to be a problem. It is definitely getting worse though, and I think a lot of that has to do with Airbnb.” She doesn’t fault locals for utilizing the Airbnb option, but stated that “a big part of the problem is homeowners that don’t live in Dare County and can’t manage their own home, leasing these spaces through Airbnb, [and] underpaying the cleaners.”
Euler also said that to encourage more essential housing, “I’d like to see them redo commercial zoning in Dare County to not only encourage, but to require housing” that would be a component of the commercial projects.
On the question of whether the county is becoming too developed and can sustain current record-breaking levels of tourism, Bateman says that he expects rising interest rates to cool the market for big houses.
“The economy drives everything,” he said. “I think we’re coming to a point [where] all this is going to slow down. It’s not going to stop, but you’re not going to see all these people building houses at seven and nine percent interest. And that’s right around the corner.”
On the issue of tourism, Bateman stated that “Ever since I’ve been in the restaurant business…I’ve seen these cycles come [and] one thing that’s always held true is that people vacation, and we’re a great vacation destination.” He also pointed out that while some decry the level of growth of tourists and development, this has brought amenities and services, such as a local hospital, that “we never had before.”
Euler stated that as far as striking the proper balance of tourism and development, “I think we’ve passed it and we’re now in trouble. I think we need to rethink a lot of the development that we’ve done.” She also suggested that going forward, the county “need[s] a design aesthetic,” a more common design strategy consistent with the culture and environment of the area. In her words, “We need a Dare County vernacular.”
One other issue that Euler cited as a reason she ran for the board is health care. “I recently beat breast cancer and was shocked to realize how much influence county government has on not only dealing with a critical illness but my treatment plan as well,” she wrote in an email to the Voice. “There were some shortcomings. I want to bring my breast cancer fight to everyone in Dare County and make health for all, a priority in the decision-making process.”
Both candidates were also asked to tell the voters something about themselves that people probably don’t know but should know.
“Before moving to Dare County, I was traveling around the world working in sustainable development of small island tourist destinations. I was actually trained to do that,” said Euler, who largely did that work with NGOs (non-governmental organizations). “Back then, it was [called] eco-tourism.”
For his part, Bateman referenced his struggles with addiction and being in recovery. “My whole life is an open book. I went through a complete change of life thirty-two years ago and when I did, I call it ‘getting naked with the world’ because all of a sudden, everybody knows everything about you.”
He added that he doesn’t enjoy the more public-facing, meet-and-greet aspects of being a local official. “I’m the guy behind the scenes digging the ditch” he said.
Commissioner Bateman’s last statement where ‘He (Bateman) added that he doesn’t enjoy the more public-facing, meet-and-greet aspects of being a local official. “I’m the guy behind the scenes digging the ditch” . All of the decisions by the commissioners are done ‘behind the scenes’ and these decisions are pulling us all into ‘the ditch’. If Bateman does not like meeting with the residents of the County to listen to their needs then he is clearly out of touch with what is required of a public official. To be truly representative of the County residents, we need diverse leadership on the Board of Commissioners. At this time there is no female representative or people of color. Additionally, there is only one Democrat on the current Board. Lastly, all of the Commissioners are over 65 years of age. Maybe it is time that the board institutes geriatric cognitive tests for members over 70 years of age. In regards to the affordable housing, the County is failing. Commissioners are blaming NIMBYism, but they have failed to get out and talk to residents and municipal leaders. Again, they are out of touch, Bateman was clear he ‘doesn’t enjoy the more public-facing, meet-and-greet aspects of being a local official’. These commissioners are working to destroy the fabric of communities with poor planning and trying to force dense housing lacking vernacular architectural design that will decrease the quality of the communities that they are meant to serve. Communities will be degraded with increased traffic, negative impacts on the environment, etc. The County needs to focus on creating a new community on the mainland on property that is owned by the County, there they could create workforce housing along side market rate housing and a commercial area. They can create thousands of units on the hundreds of acres of uplands that the County owns. It is only a ten minute drive to the Midway Intersection on Roanoke Island. It is an easy commute. While this housing would not serve all of Dare County, additional workforce housing could be sought on Hatteras Island and other areas, but the bulk could be on the County owned land. A vote for Candidate Euler will bring diversity, debate, and a needed female voice to the Board, and hopefully new ideas on solving long term growth issues, such as workforce housing.
Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice
Resident, is Danny Couch over 65?
Just reading Bateman’s comments tells you how out of touch he really is with the local community. He states “… one thing that’s always held true is that people vacation, and we’re a great vacation destination.” How profound. He claims this growth & development are responsible for the services we now have. Such as our crappy hospital that charges 4 x’s more than others? No primary healthcare available because they sold their souls to Vident!!! He forgot to mention the traffic situation that continues to get worse. The lack of housing to supply the workforce. And in addressing the county becoming too developed…. “I think we’re coming to a point [where] all this is going to slow down.” Really? The only reason it’s going to slow down is there’s very little undeveloped land to build on. Saga bought it all!!! Maybe we can hope for a 2-story Sugar Kingdom in Duck too? The current rise in interest rates has done nothing to STOP the frenzied building that is now going on. $10 says Bateman gets re-elected because no one is willing to vote outside their party lines. It’s truly sad to see what they’ve allowed this once beautiful beach to become. I’ve lived here for over 30 years & decided to finally move. I can only imagine what the “true” locals think? There is NO turning back…. But I guess they call it progress???
I heard Euler’s commercial on the radio this morning. She is promising more healthcare providers in the OBX. Will she be dissolving the CON Laws? if so, how? This is a NCGA issue? Will she be opening a Family Practice? Does she have providers ready to move and practice in the area? This is exciting news!
OBX Resident & Phoebe my already cast vote for Ervin has cancelled one of your votes for the opponent. That’s assuming you’re registered to to vote in Dare County.
The air b&b laws need changed and or limit them. They should be taxed as vacation rental property’s by the county and towns. Maybe they should have to apply for conditional use permit with limited permits in each town. They go from daily or weekly rental to short term winter rentals
Euler is the smart choice!