Dare Board approves Wanchese cluster home permit

By on May 2, 2023

Hearing set for May 17 to potentially amend cluster home ordinance

Several members of the Dare County Board of Commissioners prepare to vote to approve the special use permit application for the Wanchese cluster home development project at their meeting May 1. (Corinne Saunders)

At its May 1 meeting, the Dare County Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the special use permit application for “The Villages at Old Wharf Road” in Wanchese, a 60-unit cluster home development project that has drawn vocal opposition from the Wanchese community.

Commissioner Ervin Bateman recused himself from that vote, as he’d also done at the April quasi-judicial hearing, because he had “a pre-determined opinion” on the project that he voiced to members of the public and the developer.  Commissioner Jim Tobin, participating virtually in Monday’s meeting, also recused himself from the vote because he was not in attendance for the quasi-judicial hearing.

At the same meeting, the commissioners also voted to set a public hearing on a proposed text draft text amendment that would remove 22 zoning districts from Dare County’s cluster home development ordinance—Including the VR (“Wanchese Village Residential”) district in Wanchese where the 60-unit project will be built. The amendment would keep cluster homes as an allowable use in 12 zoning districts.

The Dare County Planning Board has already voiced its support for the new text amendment to change the cluster home ordinance. But Dare County Planning Director Noah Gillam has pointed out that any decision to remove cluster homes as an allowable use in certain districts would only affect developments proposed after the adoption of that ordinance change—meaning it will not impact the controversial Wanchese project.

County Manager Bobby Outten told the Voice on May 2 that the text amendment hearing is officially scheduled for May 17 at 5 p.m.

There were 90 minutes of public comment at the May 1 commissioners’ meeting, with most of the 25 speakers voicing vehement opposition to the Wanchese cluster home project. One person spoke in favor. Many were the same speakers who shared similar points during an even lengthier public comment at last month’s commissioners’ meeting, when the board postponed a vote on the Wanchese project until May 1.

Also echoing the April 3 meeting, many comments Monday evening were directed at Brad Alexander of Aria Construction & Development Inc., who filed the special use permit application for the Wanchese project, as well as at the commissioners.

Alison Beacham, who said she lives “right beside where the development’s going to go,” predicted worse flooding because of the project: “Take those trees out, we’re going to be underwater forever.”

“I will not vote for a one of you,” Nan Willis told commissioners. “I’m sick and tired of you people walking all over the other people in this county because of greed.”

Justin Bateman told Alexander, “You do not care,” referring to his pressing on with the project despite the intense pushback.

Bateman said he read meeting minutes from 2018 and 2019, when commissioners changed the zoning ordinance to allow cluster homes in more zoning districts. He then declared that they have “about 554 days to suck up to the people in here” and in the rest of unincorporated Dare County before the 2024 election.

At the May 1 meeting, Outten reminded commissioners before the cluster home project special permit vote that they could only use evidence they heard during the April 3 public hearing, and if the proposed project met the conditions of the current ordinance, he said they’re required to approve the permit.

Outten read a “list of facts” and conditions the board was authorized to make, and that the applicant consented to during the quasi-judicial hearing. The list included current cluster home ordinance stipulations, such as specific lot coverage, setback and parking. Conditions not in the ordinance that Alexander agreed to included having had a traffic study done and not allowing rentals less than 365 days.

Before the vote to allow the special use permit, several commissioners indicated that while they would vote for the special use permit, the scope of the Wanchese project had not been foreseen.

“When this change was made for cluster homes, I don’t think anybody anticipated the kind of density that’s being proposed, and that is one of the primary reasons that we want this to go back to the planning board—to better define what a cluster home development should look like going forward in Dare County,” Overman said.

“There was a lot of professional evidence that was presented at the [April] meeting on all the items that have been brought up at the last meeting and at this meeting as well,” he continued. “They were dealt with by the professionals in those fields and they were not challenged by anyone else who was a professional in those fields, so we kind of have a burden presuming that they’re right.”

Commissioner Steve House made similar statements before the vote, noting that commissioners can only base their decision on what was presented in the evidence.

“I had no idea that someone would come up with 60 units on 10 acres,” House said. “That was just beyond my fathoming.”

“We do have a housing issue in Dare County,” House continued. “And I don’t think a lot of people know the true depth of it. There’s a firefighter here in Dare County. He’s living in a garage—not an apartment—underneath the house, not even an approved living area…because that’s the only housing he could find.”


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  • Obx Mermaid

    This issue with cluster homes
    To “Bobby Outten”! Isn’t it time to get
    Rid of him!

    Tuesday, May 2 @ 7:52 pm
  • Czarina

    Cluster homes can be a very nice addition to a community, if done right. One floor, 2 bedroom, 1-2 car garage, are ideal for an aging population. BUT, I saw nothing about the proposed size of these homes. I’ve also seen 2 story cluster homes, which would be too big.

    Wednesday, May 3 @ 8:27 am
  • Rydaldude

    Y’all voted for the party, not the candidate. See what happens! They don’t care about you. Never have, never will. Its all about $$$$

    Wednesday, May 3 @ 10:46 am
  • Charles

    Now let’s see how “affordable” they are.

    Wednesday, May 3 @ 10:57 am
  • Wanchese Native

    Is the housing guaranteed for employees? Is it discrimination to only sell the housing to persons physically able and willing to be an employee in Dare? One theme which was more than apparent in the 5-0 vote is the commissioners (except Mr. Bateman) have no concern for or value the opinions of the citizens of Wanchese; I guess everyone can’t live in Southern Shores.

    Wednesday, May 3 @ 1:44 pm
  • Travis

    I don’t know if anyone has noticed the new “cottage courts” going up in Kill Devil Hills. These were billed by the developers as a throwback to a quainter time on the Outer Banks where the beachfront homes could be called cottages without using air quotes or a nod and wink.

    The cottage court idea was pitched as taking a parcel of land that would normally be used to build a McMansion and instead make a bunch of smaller, separate homes on the property. Ultimately you’d have about the same bedroom capacity on the property, it would just be a little more appealing and (crosses fingers behind back) possibly make renting a home on the beach more affordable for some families.

    What is going up now looks nothing like what was promised. These cottage court homes are huge. Haven’t been inside but they look to be 10 bedrooms, minimum. They block the view of the people across the street and from the road. Parking looks to be sufficient if everyone in the family is driving those one of those tiny two seater roller-skates that some call a “car.”

    I don’t know what promises were made or exceptions granted to build cottage courts, but Kill Devil Hills bought a pig in a poke on this one. And it’s too bad Dare County wasn’t paying attention because the same sort of shenanigans are about to happen with these cluster homes. The dozens of residents of Wanchese who showed up to voice their opposition to the cluster homes were ignored and hopefully that is remembered in the next election cycle.

    Wednesday, May 3 @ 3:27 pm
  • Jay

    Travis you wrote “Kill Devil Hills bought a pig in a poke on this one”. Sorry no KDH knows exactly what they are doing. It’s called lust for ever increasing tax revenue and maybe getting some campaign money for our elected officials if they vote the right way. I came up the beach road today wondering how are all the folks on the west side of the beach road going to access the beach in-season. Will it be like Ocean City Maryland where non-oceanfront visitors go out at dawn to put down blankets to stake out some place for use later in the day? Where will they park?

    How many drivers have traveled the beach road in KDH when the rain starts pouring down? I have and within minutes you’ll be driving in 6+ inches of water. Water running off the McMansion roofs and hard surface driveways. Those “single family” driveways that will park 20-30 cars.

    Wednesday, May 3 @ 3:59 pm
  • Ralph Dunlap

    Vote them all out and get rid of Outten. As far as I’m concerned recusing yourself is a yes vote. I’d bet money none of these commissioners live any where near these projects. All of these good old boys and their cronies need to go.

    Wednesday, May 3 @ 4:28 pm
  • Cheryle Radzville

    So so so true Travis. Some quaint cottage court….
    The same can be said about the condos being built a little further south on the beach road.

    Thursday, May 4 @ 1:49 am
  • Look@See

    To all the people who think that the “other party” would be doing anything differently, that’s a huge negative.. they’re ALL OUT to get fat wallets at our expense regardless of the little D or R behind the name.. so maybe wake up and stop trying to make this about “your side”… if it was Dems in charge it would have been government housing subsidized by your money and filled with drugs and other assorted crap. Same difference.

    Thursday, May 4 @ 9:21 am
  • Wayne

    We are in Bad times in obx let’s Vote
    These people out of office . Let’s get someone who has common sense.

    Friday, May 5 @ 12:38 pm
  • Sean Kelley

    I don’t know what the average yearly income is for someone in Wanchese, but I’d be willing to bet the average joe won’t be able to afford one of these “cluster homes.” I’m sure a strip mall will be coming next.

    Saturday, May 6 @ 8:55 am
  • obxron

    People here complaining about elected officials. Maybe its time to start looking/listening more carefully before you just go to vote for anyone with an R after their name who spent the most to put up signs they don’t take down if they lose.

    Sunday, May 7 @ 6:37 pm
  • Al

    Where were all of you from Wanchese when drugs were ruining your neighborhood???? VERY few of you, which I can count on one hand, showed up at any of the meetings to discuss the problem. I now see where your priorities are. I commend the commissioners for their decision and will vote for all of them again.

    Monday, May 8 @ 9:01 pm