Dare housing provision in state budget triggers search for its author

By on September 27, 2023

Two state senators weigh in on ‘a real sticky situation’

State Senators Bobby Hanig (left) and Norman Sanderson say they had no knowledge of the controversial budget provision.

The bumpy relationship between Dare County and its municipalities over the building of affordable workforce housing appeared to get more complicated last week.

That’s when municipal officials were very surprised to learn of an item in the state budget that curtailed the Dare County towns’ ability to regulate affordable housing projects—specifically those funded by the $35 million the state had awarded the county for that purpose in the 2021 budget.

Within a few days, all Dare six towns—characterizing that budget provision as an effort to limit their autonomy over local development and zoning—issued protests that took the form of resolutions and letters. The first to do so were Nags Head and Manteo, two towns that have, by different means, rejected housing developments proposed by the county’s partner, Woda Cooper Companies.

Woda Cooper, which now has a pot of $12 million in county money to build that housing, had been tasked with creating a total of 100 new units in two different locations, efforts that have thus far been stalled.

The company receiving the $35 million in state money is Coastal Affordable Housing LLC, which formed in November 2021. Jordan Hennessy, an aide to former State Senator Bill Cook, is a principal in that consortium and an officer in the company that owns the Miss Katie Dredge, which Dare County hired to address shoaling problems. The county tasked Coastal Affordable Housing with building up to 400 essential housing units before the end of 2023. But its effort to build some of those units in Kill Devil Hills was rejected by that town’s commissioners.

Aside from the municipalities’ backlash against the state budget provision, there is rampant speculation about who is responsible for inserting it into the budget.

To that end, the Voice has reached out to a number of parties, including members of Dare County’s state legislative delegation. Dare County Manager Bobby Outten has stated that county officials did not have knowledge of, or any role in the creation of that provision—a message he has relayed to the various town managers in Dare County.

State Senator Norman Sanderson, who represents Dare County, said in an interview with the Voice that he was not aware of the budget item, adding that “I found out about it when one of the residents of Dare County texted me and told me about it…It’s not hard to put something in the budget that wasn’t there before.”

“It’s a real sticky situation,” he said, noting that while “I’m disappointed that the state injected themselves into this local issue…I’m sitting in the middle, and I appreciate both sides.”

State Senator Bobby Hanig, who previously represented Dare County in the NC House of Representatives, also discussed the matter with the Voice.

“I did not see that provision until the day we voted on the budget…I don’t know who put it in there,” he said. Dare County officials, Hanig added, have assured him that they are “not taking a heavy hand [with the local municipalities] and saying, ‘this is what you’re going to have to do.’”

But he stated that “There have to be some concessions somewhere. There’s a dire need,” for workforce housing. “The municipalities have to understand that NIMBY [Not In My Backyard] isn’t going to cut it.”

In response to Voice inquiries, State Representative Keith Kidwell, who represents part of Dare County, responded that he was “currently out of town on vacation and unavailable for comment.”

Multiple attempts to seek comment from Jordan Hennessy on the budget provision were unsuccessful.


See also: Four more Dare towns join protest of state budget housing measure


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Comments

  • JW

    Great reporting OBX Voice! Please don’t take your foot off the gas pedal. Finally what everyone has been talking about behind the scenes is becoming more public. It’s blatantly clear that ethics and competence are in question with our Dare County Commissioners (awarding this guy with no experience millions of taxpayer dollars for 2 separate projects) and our state representatives (no knowledge of a bill that directly harms their constituents? hmmm…) We all have the power to fix this. Stop thinking partisan politics and vote out these elected officials!

    Also, anyone that thinks affordable housing = workforce housing needs to do more homework. Nags Head BOC presented about this about a year ago. The “affordable housing” developments don’t actually provide workforce housing because people that work do not qualify to live there – their income is too high. So all these comments about school teachers, police officers, firemen, waiters/waitresses….they won’t qualify due to the income regulations. Please do your research before advocating for something that is not what you think it is.

    Thursday, Sep 28 @ 8:30 am
  • james

    The minimum wage is $7.25. They did everything possible to kill universal health care (which all civilized nations have) to keep people from going bankrupt over a minor health scare. They went ballistic when a nutritional standard was introduced in schools to keep our kids from chronic obesity. God forbid you introduce even the most basic sensible gun reforms. CEO pays has risen 1500% have you gotten a 1500% raise lately? God bless the people of Ukraine, but we are already trillions in debt how can we just cut billion dollar checks to fight the Russians who were most likely backed into a corner with the expansion of NATO in the first place. Why are there thousands of migrants pouring into our country even though they are fine people seeking a better life. Now we are asked to foot the bill for so called Dare County workforce housing so we have enough people to clean the cottages and serve steak to tourists. Given the enormous responsibility and stress why are our school teachers not paid a starting annual salary of at least $80,000? Why are our nurses not paid a minimum starting salary of $80,000 given the danger and stress of the job? Nope, let’s pay a CEO $225 million a year to play golf and tax the tax payers of Dare County to build Russian style government funded housing so we have enough people to clean cottages and serve martinis to tourists who in most cases are not really welcome here by local people in the first place given all the negative impacts of unlimited tourism on our infrastructure.

    Thursday, Sep 28 @ 9:24 am
  • John

    I think it would be important to know what kind of experience Coastal Affordable Housing LLC has in constructing affordable housing? Are their principals trained as construction engineers or architects?
    That corporation is about to become the recipient of 35 million dollars. Would that be some kind of incentive to having this legislation passed without anyone knowing about it?
    Like others have already said, “Just follow the money”.

    Thursday, Sep 28 @ 10:32 am
  • GreaterGood

    Did Haning just agree with Michelle Obama? “someone is going to have to give up a piece of their pie so that someone else can have more.”
    Where is his piece of pie? Is he giving up his property? Money? I think not. However, he would like for you to give up our slice of pie.
    I digress. This isn’t a left or right issue. It is a GOVERNMENTAL OVERREACH ISSUE!

    Thursday, Sep 28 @ 11:34 am
  • Rocky the Rockfish

    Reminds me of the old “Hogans Hero’s” and “ Sgt Shultz”
    “I know nothing!”

    Thursday, Sep 28 @ 6:12 pm
  • Woodard's Comments Shed Some Light

    At the beginning of the September 6th Dare County Commissioners meeting Bob Woodard made comments about their efforts to bring low income housing to Dare County. He said that he had recently met with the leadership from the Chamber of Commerce to discuss ways to solve the housing issues and he said the Chamber is “behind us tremendously trying to help us find solutions”. Sounds like he was getting his marching orders.

    Then Woodard stated that on September 5th he traveled to Raleigh, along with County Manager Outten and Vice-Chair Overman, to meet with unspecified people from Coastal Affordable Housing. He said the purpose of the meeting was “to try to finalize the development agreement that we have between the two of us.” The contract was awarded in February 2022. Is Woodard saying that 18 months after the contract was awarded that the commissioners still do not have an agreement with their contractor, or was there another purpose for the meeting.

    These meetings happened just two weeks before the big announcement that the general assembly was giving the Dare County Commissions unlimited power to build whatever low income housing they want, wherever they want it; the citizens of Dare County be damned. Woodard’s comments shed light on the question about who is really behind the power grab; the County Commissioners, the Chamber of Commerce, and Coastal Affordable Housing.

    Friday, Sep 29 @ 8:08 am
  • BFF’s

    Sen Hanig didn’t know anything about it, but it was added in the Senate version of the budget. Doug Brindley is a partner in the Coastal Affordable Housing LLC, the same Doug Brindley who has been Sen Hanig’s business partner for decades.

    Come on guys, if you believe in this project so much at least stand up for it in public and let the light shine down on those fat pockets!

    Friday, Sep 29 @ 1:36 pm
  • Kit

    Low-income housing means housing for those who have low incomes. If built, unless owned and managed by the responsible municipal agency, the low-income housing units will be sold to those who can afford them and then rented at the going rate, which will mean that low-income workers still won’t be able to afford to live here.

    Why not offer a living wage for workers so they can afford to live here?

    Saturday, Sep 30 @ 11:19 am
  • Terms

    There seems to be inconsistent use and understanding of terms affordable housing vs low income housing.
    Up until about 2004 just about all housing was affordable. Then greed set in with $$$developments pushed by Brindley, Twiddy, Saga and homeowners and RE agents got on the bandwagon.
    Now aside from industry workers we can’t attract and hold on to professionals including healthcare and education.

    Yet SAGA could retrofit the Manteo hotel for “upscale” tourists rather than apartments, and have a site plan approved for 135 multistory upscale resort housing in Corolla.

    So perhaps part of the discussion ought to include a definition of terms- affordable housing for ownership and rent or low income subsidized housing.

    Sunday, Oct 1 @ 11:26 am
  • Niccolo Donzella

    Excellent reporting on an important topic.
    As I understand the situation based on the reports, $35 Million has been allocated to Dare County for the construction of worker housing by a specific consortium, and with the proviso that local government cannot veto or alter the consortium’s plans. The two senators representing the Outer Banks have stated that they did not know about the proviso when they voted for the budget. Are the senators suggesting that senators representing other areas of the State slipped this into the budget? Are they admitting that their staffs failed in their primary responsibility to know what legislation will affect their respective constituents? Or is something else going on? Please get to the bottom of this.

    Sunday, Oct 1 @ 5:24 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Nicollo, I’m on it.

    Sunday, Oct 1 @ 7:56 pm
  • Wayne

    Like I said Dare county is the Good old boy government.obx is as corrupt as the day is long

    Monday, Oct 2 @ 2:20 pm
  • bluedevilbruce

    As children we are taught not to accept money from strangers. I propose that Dare Co. not accept the money until they know who put it there. I would love to hear Woodward’s response to that. They must think we are really, really stupid.

    Monday, Oct 2 @ 3:04 pm
  • Robert "Big. Bob" Kwiatkoski

    It was suggested to me that the county owns a lot of land out by the dump past Manns Harbour. We/ the county should have delt with this years ago. It is only going to get worse as time goes by and prices go up. I know this from personal experience.

    Tuesday, Oct 3 @ 7:36 am
  • OBX Resident

    Thank you for the reporting and please stay on it until the answers are discovered. I personally called Keith Kidwell’s office the day it came out. I spoke with a legislative aide in his office. I was told that they just found out about the language that morning. I asked if Kidwell inserted it, and her response was ‘no’. I then asked who and her response was it came from the Senate side, and this person added that the Senate was trying to sneak in all types of last minute legislation including casinos. She said I needed to call Hanig and Sanderson’s respective offices to get the answers. Dare County has a paid lobbyist located in Raleigh, it should be concerning to Dare County that this legislation that ‘none of them wanted’ was slipped in and that they would want to know the culprit so that this does not happen again.

    Tuesday, Oct 3 @ 8:21 am
  • Beagle

    This article is from 2018. Read the comments from Eugene and Paul. They figured it out long ago.

    https://www.outerbanksvoice.com/2018/03/05/dissent-division-festering-in-local-republican-party/

    Tuesday, Oct 3 @ 12:08 pm
  • Eyes open

    Everyone needs to keep their eyes open on this “organization” with the dredge because of the shady past of some of its people and the land that they are buying! I am very happy having a dredge but the legislation to get the deal done was shady and then a charter Capt was “talked” to by the head of when he started asking questions. People in Wanchese worried about cluster homes while the biggest issue is hidden right under their noses with this crowd and the treatment plant. Do not let sewage lines come in or Wanchese will be no more

    Wednesday, Oct 4 @ 9:37 am
  • OBX MERMAID

    How come there are no ladies or women on these boards and consortiums.?

    Saturday, Oct 7 @ 10:06 am
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    There are no women on the Dare County Board of Commissioners, if that is what you mean.

    Saturday, Oct 7 @ 10:51 am