Manteo denies county request for wastewater hookup

By on September 7, 2023

Move appears to thwart plans for 46-unit housing development 

Dare County Manager Bobby Outten, speaking at the Sept. 6 meeting, voiced disappointment with the Manteo decision. (Kip Tabb/OBV)

Citing overwhelming opposition to allowing Dare County’s proposed essential housing project to connect to the town’s wastewater treatment system, the Manteo Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to reject the county request at its Sept. 6 meeting.

The Sanderling project at the end of Bowsertown Road envisioned a 46-unit apartment complex that the county had contracted with Woda Cooper Companies to build. Although the complex would be on county property, according to Woda Cooper officials there is not enough land on the property for a septic system to support the complex.

If built, the 46 units would represent a small step toward remedying the housing shortage for year-round workers in the county. Manteo Commissioner Sherry Wickstrom, in her remarks at the meeting, indicated the county needed 1,200 housing units. Chair of the Dare County Commissioners Bob Woodard, in an interview the following day, told the Voice that number was low. “She said 1,200. We’re lacking 2,500 [units],” he said.

The decision by the Manteo Commissioners continues a trend of county-based essential or workforce housing proposals being rejected at the municipal level. Back in January 2022, the Manteo Commissioners also turned down a county request to connect with the town’s wastewater treatment system for what was then envisioned as a 120-unit development.

In August 2022, the Kill Devil Hills Commissioners rejected an effort to rezone the 44-acre Baum tract to potentially pave the way for a high-density multifamily housing site backed by the county. And early this year, the Nags Head Commissioners opted to rezone an area that would have potentially housed a 54-unit Woda Cooper housing development.

At the Sept. 6 Manteo Commissioners meeting, County Manager Bobby Outten noted that the county and the town had a history of working together.

“We want to work with you and anyone else to solve the [housing] problem, much as we did when you had a parking problem,” he said. “We took down some buildings, donated some land, and we all worked towards solving a parking problem in your downtown.”

Outten also stressed that every concern the commissioners had voiced about the project had been addressed.

“We were told by you that [the original proposal] was too big…The project we’re proposing is 46 units,” he said. “There was some concern in our discussions about the impact fees and trying to negotiate impact fees…We said that’s fine, we’ll pay…whatever the town requires of the impact fees…There were discussions about annexation…So we said okay, that’s fine…Finally, we were asked about teacher housing…so we found a way with our partners to try to set aside ten housing units for the teachers to meet that need.”

In public comment, though, every resident who spoke about the project was opposed to the proposal. Pointing to two issues in particular, speakers felt traffic in Manteo had become a significant problem and the addition of a 46-unit housing complex would exacerbate that. Residents were also concerned about the effect the development would have on the existing wastewater system and expressed concern about losing the small town feel of Manteo.

The commissioners described their vote as heeding the will of their constituents. “I think tonight…you’ve heard that [Manteo residents] are not in favor of a connection to the sewer plant…At this time, I just think we have to listen to our voters,” Commissioner Tod Clissold said.

Echoing Clissold’s comments, Commissioner Ruth Stetson said, “I can’t find a lot of support for this development. I can’t find any support, actually.”

Woodard, when interviewed the next day, told the Voice that “I fully understand their position. They listen to their constituents. I don’t fault them for that.”

Nonetheless, he had hoped the project could move forward.  “It’s just very disappointing,” he added. For his part, Outten told the Voice that the county will continue to work toward building essential housing in spite of the setbacks.

“I’d say we’re disappointed in the Manteo decision, but we’re going to continue to work to bring workforce or essential housing to the county,” he said.

Woodard agreed, saying, “We’re looking at multiple options in other places in the county, as well as towns and municipalities.”


  • Reality

    Cluster homes get the green light?
    Any housing that benefits the rich
    always gets the green light!
    All this puts our visitors in more danger.
    We can’t fill EMT or EMS positions, we
    need teachers, & nurses bad.
    The county is trying ( grants already
    approved) to bring more employees for
    emergency personnel. But these
    positions can’t be filled, added to that
    so many have left and are still leaving.
    And I understand it shouldn’t always be
    about the visitors, even if it doesn’t
    benefit you…but you still live in the
    same place where thousands +
    thousands ++ come to visit weekly, you
    shouldn’t be a little safer during the off
    season ( whenever that is).
    Actually is there an off season anymore?
    Did you know that a few years before
    covid some DC Comminsioners were
    already going to Raleigh for meetings to
    seek out housing solutions ( not
    affortable, not section 8). Saw it coming
    and tried to get ahead of it. There are
    the DC Commisioners if you spend
    some time watching the videos of their
    meetings, they are seperate from all the
    municipal commisioners ( NH KDH MTO
    ect.) Which vote no, or even change
    coding to prevent positive for the
    county as a whole. A wise women
    (native for several generations) once
    told me in the near future this area
    will become one of the most
    dangerous places to visit.
    Meaning emergency response, nurses
    just plain staffing.
    This was some years back, but it is all
    connecting now. Scary

    Friday, Sep 8 @ 1:48 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    You just brightened up my day, Reality.

    Friday, Sep 8 @ 4:21 pm
  • Arthur

    look at it this way – you wont need workers on the OBX in 15 years since it’ll likely be underwater

    Friday, Sep 8 @ 2:24 pm
  • Planning 101

    The “so called” affordable housing project is a culmination of consistent poor planning and development over the past 30 years. Proven beach development guidelines were not utilized because of the greed of existing property owners and power brokers. There are too many huge B&Bs (simply unregulated hotels), too many strip malls and too many tourists for this small island sandbar to support. The affordable housing issue is just the beginning, It is only a matter of time before additional infrastructure problems arise.

    Friday, Sep 8 @ 6:04 pm
  • surf123

    This shows that no jurisdiction wants this type of housing and no matter what the rules will be these units will be AirBnB’d. As for worker housing they need to look to mainland Dare and Currituck. There is no place on the beach for affordable housing as the best use of all land is catering to the tourists whether it be homes, entertainment or food.

    Saturday, Sep 9 @ 4:44 pm
  • pat nash

    yea why does the housing crunch have to be setteled here on this tiny island..there is soo much land over in east lake and it is is straight shot to the beach do I never hear about any consideration of East Lake ???..It is still Dare County..!

    Saturday, Sep 9 @ 8:42 pm
  • Notanisland

    East Lake you say? Better buy stock in OFF bug spray and Red Ball wadders!!! Coming at cha #22😆

    Monday, Sep 11 @ 5:40 am
  • Steven

    That is a great idea, move the self-entitled property owners and tourists to East Lake. Its still Dare County..

    Monday, Sep 11 @ 9:45 am
  • Wayne

    I know Bob Woodward does not want Affordable housing near his home. Because everyone knows what they will turn into. I am glad to hear the people are now thinking why does it have to be Waterfront there is a lot of land on Mainland Dare County and Currituck County all the counties are in the same fix! The two counties could work together. Will they have to commute of course but it would not be that far and not that inconvenient most people have done it all their life. And I know that would mean they have a driver’s license and a car but that is pretty much the norm for people who are responsible taking jobs in Dare and Currituck County. Dare County commissioners are closed-minded instead of using all the resources which includes working with the other counties all the counties would benefit

    Monday, Sep 11 @ 3:04 pm
  • WindyBill

    All those who think that working people housing should be in Manns Harbour or East Lake: Start looking for some. It has to be from a willing seller. It has to have safe drinking water. The water table has to be Far enough down that the septic or whatever won’t flood, that is 2 to 3 feet. All the water table/septic info is available thru Dare County Environmental Health or some state of NC agency. You find the water table by digging a hole and seeing if water pools in it. Oh yeah, the land has to be suitable for a wastewater system – that is whether it will absorb any wastewater or not. OK. Now begin. Well? We are waiting.

    Tuesday, Sep 12 @ 3:47 pm
  • Larry

    Why is anyone still surprised that affordable housing runs into road blocks here and will continue to for good reason. How much affordable housing do you think there is in Time square or any other prime real estate locations …

    Thursday, Sep 14 @ 8:10 am