Dare County may change cluster home ordinance 

By on April 6, 2023

Any decision would be too late to affect Wanchese project

Rex Mann turns and speaks to Brad Alexander during his public comment against the cluster home project on April 3. (Photo by Corinne Saunders/OBV)

The Dare County Planning Board will recommend that the Dare County Board of Commissioners, at its May 1 meeting, remove cluster homes as an allowable special use for zoning districts that do not allow multi-family units.

But even if that ordinance change is adopted by the Dare County Commissioners, it would come too late to impact the 60-unit cluster home project in Wanchese that has generated widespread opposition in that community. At the commissioners’ April 3 meeting—when more than 30 Wanchese residents spoke in opposition to that project—the board chose to delay a decision on that special use permit until May 1.

According to Dare County Planning Director Noah Gillam, any decision to remove cluster homes as an allowable use in certain districts would only affect cluster home developments proposed after the adoption of that ordinance change.

In a March 24 memorandum to the planning board, Gillam wrote, “It shall be noted that if any revisions are adopted, these amendments would not affect the cluster home development that has been proposed on Old Wharf Road [in Wanchese]. Any amendments adopted would only affect future developments.”

In that memo, Gillam wrote that it was the commissioners, at their March 6 meeting, who requested that the planning board “revisit the Cluster Home Ordinance for possible revisions.” The memo also noted that request “is in response to citizen comments that have been received by the Board of Commissioners, Planning Board and Planning Staff over the proposed cluster home development on Old Wharf Road in Wanchese.”

In explaining the rationale for the proposal to overturn the current ordinance, Gillam told the Voice that even though cluster homes are each single-family dwellings, “these districts don’t allow for developments of this density.”

He also said that the planning board received an application this week for a 12-unit cluster home development on 3 acres in Manns Harbor, which it will review at its May meeting. “Until the new language is adopted, we still have to accept applications and review them,” he told the Voice.

If the ordinance is changed in coming months—a process that could take 60-90 days and would require a public hearing and commissioners’ approval—the zoning districts affected would include Wanchese, Manns Harbor, Stumpy Point, several districts on the north end of Roanoke Island and “a long list” of others, Gillam said.

A series of amendments in 2018 and 2019 permitted cluster home developments in 34 zoning districts “to increase the number of year-round housing options in Unincorporated Dare County to help combat the housing crisis,” Gillam wrote in his memo, and the Cluster Home Ordinance was adopted following those amendments.

SEE ALSO: Wanchese cluster home decision pushed to May


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  • Browny Douglas

    IF I was the developer of THIS project, I would think again again again again again again again again again and again before I moved forward with this project. Especially considering the fact that the Wanchese community offered to make the developer whole plu$, if he would reconsider.

    Maybe the developer should think again.

    Thursday, Apr 6 @ 9:23 pm
  • Sean

    What is wrong with the commissioners and why don’t they represent the people who actually live here. Instead of letting them make decisions for us why not let us personally vote on some of these big ideas. That project in wanchese is nothing more than a profit maker for its owner and wont be anything affordable about it. Other than make a bunch of money for a out of town owner. It mine as well be china owning it

    Friday, Apr 7 @ 6:16 am
  • Obxer

    Why change your mind now commissioners it is not to late for wanchese. If you build wanchese up the first tenants should be our leaders. And don’t forget to ask them if they would be willing to live in or purchase one of these dwellings they are approving. This ides of development is nothing more than greed and doesnt provide AFFORDABLE housing…. housing should be 1/4 to 1/3 of income levels. So what’s affordable about wanchese cluster homes.

    Friday, Apr 7 @ 7:33 am
  • james

    For the first time in the history of the world you can no ask an Artificial Intelligence model a question and get an answer. This same system can ACE the LSAT law school entrance exam, it can ACE the legal bar exam, it can ACE the medical school exams, it can draw you a Monet painting from simple text. Have you been in the Walmart in Kitty Hawk lately? They have essentially removed 90% of check out registered and replaced them with scanners with built in AI. God forbid but have you had surgery lately? Very likely it can be performed by AI. Technology is quickly reaching the point where it can AI can exponentially learn. I got bad news that no human can compete against a machine. It will run faster and further and it will think deeper than any human is capable. If you are old fart like me you will likely escape it, but I can promise you in 75 years AI will be capable of performing any task a human can perform and it is not grumpy and it does not need health care. We need to rethink things in preparation for the oncoming transformation of the world where AI is calling the shots and who knows who and what exactly is developing and training the model. Just my opinion, but I don’t think building an ugly cluster home development in a beautiful tranquil fishing village with it’s own dialect that dates back hundreds of years is going to help things very much.

    Friday, Apr 7 @ 10:36 am
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    James, your comment was very interesting, but I was wondering what the heck it had to do with Wanchese cluster homes — until he last sentence. It was a tenuous connection at that, but we’ll let it ride.

    Friday, Apr 7 @ 5:05 pm
  • Freenusa

    How is “village residential” 60 cluster homes with common sewage for 10 houses. Doesn’t seem very village to me.

    Friday, Apr 7 @ 11:39 am
  • WindyBill

    ‘Lot Coverage’ is an Important land use phrase that means how much of a given land area is covered with solid surfaces that do Not absorb or evaporate water. (The actual word is “impervious”, ok fine.) A house, sidewalk, hard driveway, deck (yes, a deck) and such are ‘impervious’. This is, in this area, Very significant to a builder as it restricts how much land must remain open. It should also be Very significant to local government planners And the future dwellers on that land because it will affect whether that land will stay dry or become a bog in the future. Covered land cannot evaporate water, and people living there can bring in from county water pipes more water than the ground can disburse or evaporate. That is just normal living. If there is enough open land, a dry balance is maintained. Developers like to put as many people on a piece of land as possible to make more money. Nothing new there, right? Well, if afer a few years, too many people are there with ‘impervious’ lot coverage, the water table actually does rise and swamps septics and yards. By then, the developer and their hired engineers have their money and are long gone. Yes, this is a long way around the barn, but complexity is how developers cover up what is going to happen. The proposed 12 units on 3 acres in Manns Harbor may just be the right size to avoid this problem, and we need to rely on the good people in the county planning department to verify this. I have zero personal financial interest in this project, but know we need inexpensive housing.

    Friday, Apr 7 @ 2:22 pm
  • Yupp. Local!

    As a local all my life from wanchese and mannsharbor, i know none of wanchese maybe 1% who want wanchese built up. If locals dont want them here. The cluster homes will not stay . Haha. Were pretty good at runnin people out who dont belong. Ha we also dont go down without a fight. We will ban together to do whats needed legally as well. We will make a fuss!

    Friday, Apr 7 @ 4:40 pm
  • Kristy

    Brad needs to re-evaluate and understand when he builds he should blend in with the Village Wanchese Community. Not defy the Wanchese Village Community. Cluster is a Cluster. Cluster homes should never be ok’ed on the obx. Anywhere.

    Saturday, Apr 8 @ 8:42 pm
  • manteobxr

    Is it time for Wanchese to consider incorporating? The argument that this move will increase taxes flies in the face of the desire to limit development, as if your taxes are not increasing regardless. Sure they will go up, but your future plans will not be left to Dare BOC. [Are any of the commisoners native to Dare county?] Whose interests are they serving? Take a look around and the answer is obvious, as the unending destruction of the natural resources, that we cherished. This is why I never wanted to live in Myrtle Beach, Va. Beach etc….. I

    Sunday, Apr 9 @ 5:34 pm
  • Hal McCray

    How is it that Stumpy Point, Wanchese and Manns Harbor had their zoning changed by the COUNTY to allow cluster homes. Perhaps they have friend in real estate and development? Perhaps they need worker housing for their restaurant friends. Interesting that none of these clusters are in THEIR NEIGHBORHOODS!

    Tuesday, Apr 11 @ 9:16 am