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.”


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  • Travis

    Fascinating. So when the citizens of the municipalities speak out against the mega houses (McMansions) polluting the shoreline, the politicians throw up their hands and cry “property owners’ rights” and “there’s nothing we can do.”

    But when the citizens raise pitchfork and torch against affordable housing, why, it’s as simple as denying one little ole permit that blocks the entire plan.

    Hmmm…what is the difference between these two interests? Guess we’ll just have to follow the money and see.

    Thursday, Sep 7 @ 5:02 pm
  • It is NOT Workforce Housing

    Please quit calling it “Workforce” housing. This marketing term is useful for selling this pig in a poke to the citizens of Dare County but this LIHTC housing is not “Workforce” housing.

    The truth is, these proposed housing projects are government subsidized low income general occupancy housing. Federal HUD rules make this LIHTC housing especially suitable to retired seniors who are no longer in the workforce. This includes Non-local retired seniors who do not currently live in Dare County. Federal rules require that Non-locals must be treated the same as Locals.

    This will not help our local workforce housing problem, it will just make it worse.

    Thursday, Sep 7 @ 6:29 pm
  • Zippy

    At this point I’ve lost count of how many, “affordable housing” projects this makes that are supposedly, “desperately needed” but have been blocked one way or another.

    Quit yapping about the supposed need, if it’s a true necessity it’s amazing how they all end up conveniently being blocked.

    Also stop the hate talk about SAGA etc., I dont know anyone there, but this isn’t their fault, yeah they build eyesore after eyesore on the oceanfront but it has nothing to do with this.

    Thursday, Sep 7 @ 7:12 pm
  • Tyrrell Johnson

    Ah, more old white guys making decisions about stopping the average Joe from being able to afford a respectable place to live.

    Thursday, Sep 7 @ 7:13 pm
  • Kristy

    Thank you, Manteo commissioners! Our island has had rapid development and is continuing. Consult with USPS Dare County public works. Check traffic most days, heavy for an 8mile by 2mile island. Roanoke Island does not need to support the short falls of housing to the east. This is not a unique problem, check out any tourist driven area but Roanoke Island is unique, we are a small island, approximately 16 square miles. The housing shortage is not a Roanoke Island problem, our island is booming with single family homes.

    Thursday, Sep 7 @ 8:12 pm
  • Hey Travis

    Manteo commissioners have nothing to do with beach development or their town’s needs. Their job is to look out for Manteo’s best interest. Contact yr representative’s on this issue.

    Thursday, Sep 7 @ 8:30 pm
  • Freeland

    I can see why there is opposition too. 46 unit development on any street in Dare County. Why not do a bunch of small ones?

    Thursday, Sep 7 @ 9:30 pm
  • Don't be a johnson

    Manteo has 6 commissioners. Three are women, two are black, and two are middle age white men. Not even one “old white guy”.

    Our mayor is a senior citizen but in Manteo the mayor does not vote except when there is a tie vote.

    Thursday, Sep 7 @ 10:36 pm
  • Steven

    There are already thousands of multi-family high-density dwellings,
    just take a drive on the beach road. Houses that sleep twenty people, which equals three families, condominiums, town houses, apartments, multiple dwellings on one property, most of them so tall they block sunlight and cast shadows across the beach..

    There is no housing shortage, it’s greed and intentional removal of middle class..

    Friday, Sep 8 @ 6:08 am
  • Margaret Hinds

    What about AIRPORT ROAD ⁉️
    Was that project THOUGHT OUT⁉️
    TRAFFIC ‼️🤨

    Friday, Sep 8 @ 7:51 am
  • Kristy

    Margaret, the Airport Road project is in uncoordinated Dare and falls under Dare commissioners’ jurisdiction, not Manteo. It’s doubtful that any negatives were taken seriously.

    Friday, Sep 8 @ 8:38 am
  • Part Time OBX

    There is LOTS of land in Manns Harbor and west. There is no NEED for Section 8 public housing in Manteo or even in any of the Route 12 towns. The County wants it because the county gets a cut and the builders gets a cut of the Government Subsidy, but the towns and communities that have to deal with it get nothing from the subsidies – its all a political lie so the County can line its pocket. There’s also plenty of land north of Point Harbor as well! Plenty of options OUTSIDE of the beach road towns and Manteo.

    Friday, Sep 8 @ 9:34 am
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Part Time, just for the record, none of the recent housing projects proposed are Section 8 public housing.

    Friday, Sep 8 @ 12:00 pm
  • Patty Martin

    Referring to the new development on Airport Rd – it’s the mayor’s son’s -RV Owens – neighborhood along with Judge Davis’ husband- the rich keep getting richer but the heck with the workforce.
    I retired from teaching for decades in Dare county. I can’t afford to stay as is the case with many friends who are single.
    No one will be left to “serve” the upper class😩

    Friday, Sep 8 @ 9:38 am
  • Arthur

    Why not build it on manns harbor? its basically a trailer park community as is

    Friday, Sep 8 @ 9:47 am
  • Davis

    Simple solution: Limit and/or ban short-term rentals in residential areas.

    Boom! Problem solved.

    Friday, Sep 8 @ 9:56 am
  • Thoughts

    It seems that if a given business model requires government assisted housing to attract and keep a workforce, then the business owners are in reality the proverbial “welfare queens.”

    Friday, Sep 8 @ 10:25 am
  • lippy

    Instead of all these “workforce housing” projects that will always be suspect due to the fact they take federal funds (with all the strings attached), pay EMS, police, fire and teachers a living wage. Someone working 13yrs as a dispactcher should be making more than $35k per year.

    Dare County has had several recent years of a financial boon, spread the wealth with the workers and stop wasting time and money with these phony essential housing projects.

    Friday, Sep 8 @ 10:50 am
  • Well done!

    Well done to the Manteo commissioners! Woda Cooper and Dare have been selling these projects as “essential workforce housing”, meaning for fire, police, teachers, medical personnel, etc. Fact is, most of those employees make too much to qualify to live in these complexes. The Town of Nags Head did a study on this very subject and validated that fact during the debates on building a Woda Cooper project in Nags Head. And as someone else pointed out, Woda Cooper said themselves at a Nags Head meeting that they get lots of retirees in their units. That’s not “essential” workforce, for sure.

    Friday, Sep 8 @ 10:55 am

    All the politicians and businesses scream and demand affordable housing for their workers that are needed so daily life can continue without interruption. Both entities know good and well that it’s not likely to happen. They are also OKAY with it because of OPTICS! Hey we tried, sorry it didn’t work out. We will continue to work on it. Citizens appeased.
    It’s all smoke and mirrors. #Sheeple

    Friday, Sep 8 @ 11:38 am
  • Doug S

    Regulate Air bnb’s in our residential neighborhoods and the housing problem will go away!

    Friday, Sep 8 @ 11:57 am