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

  • Not surprised

    Mr. Jurkowitz, thank you for this article. Please continue to keep us updated. There are lots of concerned Dare County citizens who are very concerned about this.

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 11:18 am
  • Greg

    I will submit that our representatives in Raleigh March to the best of The Moore Berger cartel which takes every opportunity to consolidate power into the General Assembly. This is just one area in which they are engaged in big government. Kidwell not available? How about Ed Goodwin? These people are voting to gut environmental protections for our Waters as well. They are also waging a financial starvation campaign against NC public schools, especially those in poorer counties.

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 11:32 am
  • Greg

    Not surprising. The majority in the General Assembly has been in a campaign to take away local voices on many issues. A real concern is their accommodation to developers who want to fill wetlands and outright polluters. We are at the end of the water flow that begins in The Appalachian Mountains. Our current slate of State Representatives in both houses are not acting for the true good of their constituents.

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 12:12 pm
  • OBX Resident

    What is the position of the County Commissioners concerning the legislation? Do they share the opposition of the municipalities? One thing is for certain, a politician inserted this language at the bequest of the party that would be the beneficiary of the language. With receipt of $35 million in taxpayer money, the Dare County Board of Commissioners should hold a special public meeting with Coastal Affordable Housing and mandate Mr. Hennessy’s attendance. The purpose of the meeting should be to discuss what Mr. Hennessy’s group has been doing since being awarded the funds (they have received almost $400K to date, explain), and additionally his potential involvement in the recent legislation that his group is the beneficiary of. Also, some of the commissioners may have told County Manager/Attorney Outten that they knew nothing about the legislation; this must be taken with a grain of salt. It is time for the Commissioners to put aside egos and preferred relationships and look at finding real solutions to the affordable housing issue whether it is the long-term development of a new community on mainland property that is County owned or other suitable property that is being overlooked, cast the net wide. What the County has been doing to date is not working. Additionally, the disparities in the County’s contracts signed with both Woda Cooper and Coastal Affordable need to be investigated. These contracts are only going to lead to additional issues. We need community solutions, transparency and bad politics needs to be curtailed to allow for the successful development of affordable housing in Dare County that is integrated rather than forced into the community.

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 12:21 pm
  • Allen

    If no one put it in then anyone can take it out? Right? Why does it HAVE to stay in?
    This is outrageous!!
    How is it that no one knows who put it in or that no one is coming forward stating they put it in? This will destroy Nags Head!! If it’s affordable housing, everything else in the area is UNaffordable so how will the low-income folks survive there? Why not just build across the bridge in the woods in Currituck?? NO ONE wants a monstrosity without limits built in Nags Head. Just ridiculous.

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 12:26 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Allen, I am sure some people know who put it in, but certainly nobody’s talking.
    Bobby Hanig said the provision could be excised or modified in the short session of the state legislature which starts next year.

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 1:49 pm
  • Molly Harrison

    Thank you for covering this story, and please continue to research this. We all deserve to find out how this item made it to the state budget.

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 1:07 pm
  • Travis

    Your GOP hard at work looking after the “everyman/everywoman” they claim to love so much.

    For one, it should be a matter of record who inserted what language into any particular bill. How can this be kept from the public.

    For two, good job local representatives. “This is the first time I’m seeing this” means neither they nor their staffs read it very carefully. Is this lazy attention to detail how we expect any representative, no matter the party, to do their job?

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 3:08 pm
  • ALVAH H. WARD JR

    There is a rat somewhere masquerading as a public servant while serving money interests!
    Is he registered as a lobbyist?

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 3:23 pm
  • J R T

    Ray Midgett would have already figured it out. I miss the old days when we had real local journalists who had to do the legwork to keep up with what he would uncover.

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 4:37 pm
  • cui bono?

    the name of who’s responsible is in this very article. pretty easy to figure out if you follow the money

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 5:17 pm
  • Chris

    @Travis bro do you want me to point out everything the left does wrong. This is not about right or left its about wrong and right!!. There’s good and bad on each side so if you don’t know that by now, commenting on here as much as you do .get a life

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 5:36 pm
  • Just Another Mike

    Aside from the witch hunt for the person who authored this part of the legislation, the state has every right to put conditions on the money that they give local communities for specific initiatives like workforce housing. If you don’t like it, don’t take the money. Simple. The issue is all the liberals want the money to be able to do as they please with it with no conditions. The towns keep rejecting reasonable projects that will help workforce housing because they don’t want it in their back yard. So, again, simple…if you don’t like the conditions, don’t take the money.

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 6:50 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Hey Mike, my only point would be that the local municipalities did not take the money. That money was given to Dare County, not its towns.

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 6:57 pm
  • Thomas

    It’s relatively simple, if workforce housing is going to be developed, the local towns are going to have to change their zoning ordinances. Under the current rules it doesn’t allow more than 4 units per acre. That’s nothing when trying to get to a few hundred. As far as I know, none of the towns have been even willing to consider such amendment to its zoning. I don’t think the state allocates $35 million dollars willy-nilly, and especially not to be squandered away and fail in providing the most for its investment in workforce housing.

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 7:25 pm
  • Laura

    Follow the money!

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 7:40 pm
  • Drajon

    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/

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 8:01 pm
  • Steve Johnso

    Follow the money is always the path to the truth! Unbelievable! Destroy Nags Head or OBX in general with this insane need to build housing here and you will destroy the very businesses, and in turn the great jobs, which they provide. Good way to level the playing field however, distribute the wealth around as Obama said famously. Trouble is, poverty is spread around faster. Do a win win and build housing (affordably) across the river where it belongs. Keep OBX property and businesses prosperous, a place families want to visit. And provide affordable housing for the workforce 10 mins away.
    BTW, if it is across the River, tourists, or landlords masquerading as workers, won’t have incentive to occupy them. …I can see it now…workers enjoying cheap housing here subletting their apartments on OBX and commuting from Elizabeth City! That’s the way real life works, as opposed to do-gooders in government who try to defy gravity and shove what’s good for us down our throats!!

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 8:19 pm
  • dethrol

    All the Monday morning quarterbacking and feeble attempts to pin this on one political party or the other is rich. Folks, they’ve divided us into groups based on any one of a thousand lowest possible common denominators (race, gender, political affiliation, education, religion, location, appearance, height, weight, hair color, eye color, body type, etc) and then play us against each other to foster their corruption.

    How about we cut to the chase and point all the outrage (currently aimed at the author) toward the real problem: the Pigs gorging themselves at the taxpayers trough.

    This bill was presented and available for review, revision, and consideration in in the fall of 2021, in accordance with the rules of our legislature. Apparently, NONE of the people who are supposed to be representing us (and who are now soooooo outraged) read the damn thing. Then, they voted to approve and implement it.

    I seem to remember other instances of gross overreach by the government when our representatives told us they’d have to pass bills to find out what was actually in them. It all starts when the government, ANY government, starts doing things that exceed their authority. They’ve been doing it for so long with total impunity that it’s become not just a habit, but a standard operating procedure.

    Wednesday, Sep 27 @ 9:36 pm
  • Paul

    The constant solution always comes out to be, NIMBY build it in Currituck. In the past 20 years the entire Dare county culture has changed from an integrity based community focused to county where greed is hailed.

    Thursday, Sep 28 @ 6:25 am
  • C Taylor

    Thank you for the article Mark. Looks like our elected representatives are giving the citizens of Dare County less access to the due process of public hearings, local zoning oversight of “workforce housing” projects, and methodical permit review by local and state agencies. The politicians have essentially eliminated our input on this type of housing through heavy handed and opaque methods. Not only that, they have purposely singled out Dare County with this ruling. Dare county commissioners need to clarify their stance on this “law”. The talking point of “We didn’t know anything about it” is flimsy and quite stale after 7 days. I encourage anyone who has an interest in this “development” attend the next Dare County Commissioner’s meeting on 10/2 @ 9:00 am. https://www.darenc.gov/departments/board-of-commissioners .The agenda is released and Workforce Housing Update is listed as Item 7.

    Thursday, Sep 28 @ 7:17 am
  • JS

    Anyone concerned that none of the politicians who VOTED on the budget were aware of the provisions and details in it? Good watching the store fellas….Next time I get jury duty, do I need to listen to the arguments or can I just vote guilty/not guilty and then claim to be unaware of the evidence if asked about it?

    Keep at it Mark. There’s a story here. Thanks for your efforts, you do good work.

    Thursday, Sep 28 @ 8:27 am