Nags Head Commissioners create C-5  ‘historic character’ commercial district

By on March 15, 2023

John Harris from Kitty Hawk Kites called the new district ‘harmful to business owners.’ (Photo credit Corinne Saunders/OBV)

By a unanimous 4-0 vote, the Nags Head Board of Commissioners passed text amendments establishing a new C-5 zoning district at its meeting on March 15. Commissioner Mike Siers was absent from the meeting.

No maps have yet been adopted, so no structures are currently formally within C-5, to be known as the “historic character commercial zoning district.”  At its March 21 meeting, the Nags Head Planning Board will consider the maps and finalize their recommendation to the board.  According to Public Information Officer Roberta Thuman, the commissioners expect to hold a public hearing on the maps at their May 3 meeting.

Generally, the new district is expected to include areas between U.S. 158 and N.C. 12 from Danube Street to Hollowell Street—formerly zoned as the C-2 General Commercial district. The text amendments adopted on March 15 include permitted uses, lot coverage limits, habitable space limits and other regulations pertaining to the C-5 district.

At the March 1 Nags Head Commissioners meeting, which included a hearing on the proposed zoning text amendments, property owners and business owners sounded off at length, and more than 80 people attended in person.

The March 15 meeting did not attract as much attention, with less than 20 members of the public showing up, and only seven speaking during public comment.

“These changes seem appropriate,” opined Basil Belsches, who owns a house in the district.

Meanwhile, three business owners and two attorneys expressed concerns over the changes. John Harris, owner of Kitty Hawk Kites, said some of the text amendments remain “harmful to business owners.” He said the allowable “lot coverage in C-5 is more restrictive than the lot coverage in C-2,” which would limit the development of property in C-5 and thereby “devalue that property.”

He also said the 75-foot setback from NC 12, would make renders some lots undevelop-able, asserting that setbacks should mirror those in C-2.

“I am increasingly concerned at the restrictive amendments being directed at commercial [properties]…and nothing at residential in that district,” Harris said. “It takes both communities to make a vibrant Nags Head community.”

Nags Head Planning and Development Director Kelly Wyatt spent about half an hour reviewing the amendment changes during the March 15 meeting. She explained that nonconforming businesses in the district, if they were to be damaged or destroyed by fire, storms or other natural disasters, are allowed to repair or to build back into the same footprint they’d previously had.

Wyatt also noted that the following uses will be permitted in the new C-5 District: Convenience stores, dormitories, fueling stations, group developments, indoor public assemblies, mixed-use developments and shopping centers.

“We do have a dormitory in this district,” Wyatt said, noting that the building next to St. Andrew’s By the Sea Episcopal Church is a dormitory use in the front of the building and apartments in the rear.

A portion of Soundside Road is also considered a historic district, and Wyatt said the adoption of 4,200 square feet of habitable building area for commercial structures on lots fronting N.C. 12 is consistent with that district.

Crouse Gray, an attorney retained by two local businesses, said during public comment that he felt the changes “penalize them,” pointing out how the lot coverage limit in both C-1 and C-2 is 55%. Town documents limit C-5 to 45% lot coverage.

While the lot coverage limit is 45% with impervious materials, Wyatt said at that meeting that lot coverage can be increased to 55% “with the use of permeable paving materials.”

“I have some heartburn with the lot coverage,” Mayor Ben Cahoon said before the vote, “but not enough to not vote for this.” Instead of limiting the intensity of use, “all we’ve done is make it a little more expensive,” Cahoon opined, since by using permeable paving materials, developers could actually cover the same amount of or more land in the C-5 district.

Cahoon also said at the meeting that he was on the committee that developed the town’s current land use plan. The goal of the setbacks from N.C. 12 and limitations on building size were made to preserve the “character we’d like to see” in the town. “We did not want large buildings looming over the beach road,” he added,

The town land use plan has been frequently referenced in discussions since rezoning was first mentioned last October, following a proposal by Woda Cooper Company—a partner with the county in its efforts to build more essential housing—to construct a 54-unit housing development on the corner of Hollowell Street and U.S. 158.

The commissioners first enacted a 150-day development moratorium in the town’s historic character area following that proposal, then voted to remove multifamily residences as a permitted use in the C-2 district in December 2022.


(Visited 11 times, 1 visits today)


  • LMD

    I think we may have a clue as to where the dense “worker housing” will be built.

    Thursday, Mar 16 @ 8:58 am
  • 102

    This whole mess with re-zoning started with Nags Head Pizza using the old Montesorie\ Day Care building to make pizza. A congressmen has rental property across the street from the pizza house. Doesn’t like the smell of pizza near his property. The man doesn’t even live here, but the planning board will bow to him because he is a BIG MAN in the government. Don’t know if anyone has been watching what is going on with the government but I’ll ask you to read the preamble of the Constitution of the United States. It starts out with “We the People”, not I’m a muckity muck with the government and I can control what you boneheads do. We the people means all of us little folks that live here year round, pay taxes, pay higher prices for our staples, and try to keep a household that is conducive to raising children. We don’t rent our rental property by the week, we live in our homes or places we have to rent at a jacked up rate because they, that own the vacation houses can rent them for more by the week than we can pay by the month. Keep letting the big boys run the beach and you’ll see what happens. We’ll all be living 1 or 2 hours away from here so we can work for the BIG MONEY people.

    Thursday, Mar 16 @ 6:12 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    102, I think you were referring to a Senator, not a Congressman.

    Friday, Mar 17 @ 7:43 am
  • Gary Feguson

    That’s too bad 102. You don’t seem to get it.

    Friday, Mar 17 @ 9:42 am
  • Glad I Moved...

    Just reading the tribute to Delbert Melton reminded me of what this beach truly used to be. Free spirits, happier times, when less government rules existed. Now it’s just greasing the palms to get what you want. The politicians not only sold their souls to the highest bidder, but sold out the people that continue to vote for them…. election after election. I guess it’s true… “You can’t fix stupid!” The OBX no longer supports the character that once made this place great, special or unique. It’s become a place of how many Starbucks, Sugar Kingdoms, Wings and chain retailers you can put in each town! Don’t forget the gas stations on every corner too! Look at what’s happened in Carova with the Horse Tours, which made one particular person
    EVEN richer. Wait till the stupid $500,000,000 Currituck Bridge is finally built. Just to shorten the tourists drive! A place where non-residential owners dictate to the local officials how they don’t want a particular business in “their” neighborhood? People need to realize it’s far too late to put the genie back in the bottle. This paradise is LOST!!!

    Friday, Mar 17 @ 12:52 pm
  • resident

    Mr. Ferguson, I think 102 does get it. Maybe you should elaborate. And Glad I Moved, I would take a million Delberts in place of these self- serving politicians. They keep selling us out.

    Monday, Mar 20 @ 3:45 pm
  • Gary Feguson

    Mr. Resident,
    IMO the Town is trying to preserve the residential character of this historic area. This is not big government gone amuck but a proactive measure to protect the very fabric of our Town. Whether you live here year round, own a summer house (rent or not) or just have a vacant lot you should be afforded the protection that most Nags Head residents enjoy. This is a very special area and if you can’t see that then, I’m sorry but you just don’t get it.

    Thursday, Mar 23 @ 9:46 am
  • resident

    Mr. Ferguson, IMO This all started over the Nags Head Pizza situation. Where is your concern over a WaWA store, 4 new Starbucks, The Sugar Kingdom, a convention center etc. and this location turning into a little Virginia Beach. I don’t consider this progress. I dont consider this big government gone amuck, I consider it small town commissioners that caved into the interests of just a few. If you want to preserve ALL the Outer Banks then I’m right there with you.

    Monday, Mar 27 @ 3:13 pm
  • Gary Feguson

    NH pizzia was just the tip of the problem but the Town took measures to reduce the potential for this to continue to happen. So you are right but zoning changes take a lot of time. Do you believe that some land uses are not compatible with other land uses? If so, I think you would support what NH did. Also, all those land uses you mentioned above are not in NH but other towns.

    Wednesday, Mar 29 @ 1:41 pm