Dare Board removes 22 zoning districts from cluster home ordinance

By on May 18, 2023

Attendees respond with a standing ovation following the board’s adoption of the zoning amendment removing 22 zoning districts from the cluster home development ordinance. (Photo credit Corinne Saunders/OBV)

The Dare County Board of Commissioners approved a zoning text amendment removing 22 zoning districts from the county’s cluster home development ordinance by a unanimous 5-0 vote during its May 17 special meeting.

The removed districts include all zoning districts in Wanchese, Manns Harbor, Mashoes and East Lake, as well as some districts on Roanoke Island’s North End and in Hatteras Village, among others, according to maps included in the meeting agenda packet.

The seven-member board was missing two members on Wednesday. Chairman Bob Woodard said Commissioner Jim Tobin was unable to attend and requested thoughts and prayers for him. Woodard said Commissioner Danny Couch was absent because he had a prior commitment.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the May 17 meeting was the distinct change in tone on the cluster home issue—as reflected in both the public’s and Woodard’s conciliatory comments. For weeks leading up to and including the May 1 commissioners’ meeting when they approved a 60-unit cluster home project in Wanchese, the community showed up in large numbers to fight passionately against that project—at times aiming some angry words at the commissioners.

And while the May 17 decision precludes future cluster home projects in Wanchese, it will not have an impact on the hotly contested one that was approved on May 1 or on any other proposed projects with plans submitted prior to the amendment’s approval.

Twenty-eight people spoke during the public hearing at this week’s meeting, and most were the same individuals who had spoken at the past few meetings on the same topic. Apparently heartened by the board’s decision to cut back on future cluster home developments, most speakers urged the commissioners to adopt the text amendment. And several cautioned them to move more carefully in the future.

“Thank you for listening to us and for your heartfelt concern,” said Lorraine Tillett, a Wanchese resident and one of the organizers against the cluster home development on Old Wharf Road in Wanchese.

“We appreciate what you’ve done and how you’ve helped us, and we just ask you to do the thing and rescind it from the ordinance,” Tillett said. “And whatever you send back, that you think carefully about what you’re going to allow.”

“First, I will lend my voice to the others that have asked you to vote for the zoning text amendment as recommended by the planning board,” Ken Mann said. “Second, I would encourage you as you go forward to move very slowly. Some of you have said it yourselves—you had no idea what would happen.”

“We’ve all benefited from travel and tourism to one degree or another,” Mann added. “Now we’re all suffering from it to some degree or another, so I think the solution needs to come from all of us. And I firmly believe there are solutions.” He offered to lend his services and time in working with commissioners toward those solutions.

Angel Khoury, a Manteo resident, asked that the commissioners adopt the amendment but also that they encourage the planning board to “act very expeditiously to rephrase and rewrite” the cluster home ordinance for zoning districts on Roanoke Island where they’re still allowed, “to keep what’s happening in Wanchese from happening on the North End.”

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,” Dare County Planning Director Noah Gillam wrote in a March 24 memorandum, and the cluster home ordinance was adopted following those amendments.

This March, the commissioners had asked the Dare County Planning Board and county planning staff to look at potential revisions to that ordinance, Gillam said at the beginning of the May 17 public hearing. In April, the planning board recommended removing cluster homes “from a number of districts.” After further discussion, the board recommended removing it from all “zoning districts that do not allow for multifamily developments, since we have seen that through engineered systems a level of density is allowed that is…inharmonious with the single-family districts.”

Many speakers during the hearing shared appreciation for how swiftly the process moved, and several apologized for things they’d said to the board previously.

“I’m apologize; I fired off some shots at some of y’all,” Justin Bateman said.

“I’m sorry I prayed for y’all to not sleep,” Mikey Daniels said.

“Mikey, I want to tell you, the Lord answers prayers,” Woodard quipped.

During the commissioners’ discussion on the text amendment after the public hearing, Woodard took a moment to apologize as well, which some constituents had called for in their comments at the last meeting when they accused him of losing his temper.

“I was out of character,” Woodard said. “I apologize and I hope you will accept my apology.”

He added: “Ken, I will take you up; we need your help. This county has grown tremendously, and we need to find a way to make it work for all of you. We should never let this happen again.”

After the vote to adopt the amendment, many in the audience cheered and gave commissioners a standing ovation. This came in sharp contrast with people’s repeated threats in previous meetings that they would not vote for members of the board again.


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  • Ginger

    They just don’t want to lose the voters that voted against their own interests.

    Thursday, May 18 @ 6:20 pm
  • Smokey

    Please help us in KDH. so much building is out of control. Developers want to build on every piece of land available. Please. Make it stop.

    Thursday, May 18 @ 9:15 pm
  • Pete

    This decision is contrary to the published Land Use Policy which is evidence that the document is not worth the time and paper it was written on. The key statement is “diversification”. In the last few meetings, maintaining a lack of diversification was an undertone of many of the comments made by speakers, such as our village, our way of life, a speaker even stated cluster homes will cause an increase in crime.
    Policy LUC #4
    To address the housing needs of the year‐round population, multi‐family dwellings and other types of residential structures such as accessory use dwellings, are considered appropriate alternatives when located in areas zoned for multi‐family structures and constructed on lots or parcels greater than the minimum lot size for single family lots established in the individual zoning districts of the Dare County Zoning Ordinance. This diversification of housing opportunities is important to address the needs of Dare County’s workforce.

    Friday, May 19 @ 8:54 am
  • PoliticalHack

    Ginger you are correct. Also, Creef is head of OBAR. She has a mighty sway with the Board since she just retired from Dare County. People use your brains. This was a Political Stunt. Creef protects OBAR. BOC gets hugs, kisses, and gratitude. Wanchese STILL gets the cluster houses.

    Friday, May 19 @ 9:10 am
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Political, for the record, Willo Kelly is the CEO of OBAR. Donna Creef is the Government Affairs Director.

    Friday, May 19 @ 10:01 am
  • Dan

    Smokey – curious how much of KDH is on the public sewer system? That will always be the driving force behind growth and overdevelopment. KDH and Nags Head Village both have sewer systems, but not sure exactly where the coverage begins and ends or who else has one?

    Friday, May 19 @ 9:45 am
  • Smokey

    We are BTH and have our own septic as well as everyone in our area. I believe most of the mini mansions have their own systems. Not sure why the question.

    Sunday, May 21 @ 7:30 am