Affordable housing takes center stage at KDH candidate forum

By on October 14, 2023

From left to right: Ben Sproul, John Windley, Ivy Ingram, BJ McAvoy.

Perhaps more than anything else, the Oct. 4 League of Women Voters candidate forum in Kill Devil Hills served to showcase the differences between the town’s two mayoral candidates—particularly on the issue of affordable housing.

Those two candidates are incumbent Mayor Ben Sproul and incumbent Commissioner John Windley. Also participating in the forum were incumbent commissioners Ivy Ingram and B.J. McAvoy, who hold two of the three board seats in play this fall. A third candidate for the board, challenger Michael Denny, could not attend due to what were described as unexpected circumstances.

If Sproul defeats Windley for mayor, Windley could serve out the rest of his term as commissioner, which ends in 2025. If Windley is victorious, the board of commissioners selects someone to fill the remainder of his term as commissioner.

In his opening statement, Windley recalled the Kill Devil Hills Commissioners’ 2022 vote against rezoning the 44-acre Baum Tract, a move that would have paved the way for a large housing development built by the county’s partner, Coastal Affordable Housing, LLC. Sproul cast the lone vote in favor.

Windley explained his reason for running by stating that, “At the Aug. 8, 2022, board of commissioners meeting, my opponent voted in support of adding high-density housing to the Baum Tract, which is a governmental, recreational use. I strongly opposed his plans…that would cause harmful, long-term effects” for the town. This campaign, he added, “is a referendum on the issue of the Baum Tract.”

In response to a related question about housing, Sproul said that “the cost and availability of housing is the number one issue in our community. It’s really hit a fever pitch. He added that the “NIMBY-ism issue [Not in My Back Yard] has been a super big frustration for the county” in its efforts to build workforce housing.

Sproul also expressed the hope that the current effort to create an affordable housing task force that includes representatives of the six Dare municipalities “will give us a leg up on finding a way to work together more collaboratively and more productively.” At one point during the forum, Sproul said he was “the optimist” of the group in believing there could be a role for local government in facilitating more affordable housing options in the town.

Addressing the ubiquitous housing issue, McAvoy stated that “I am a little defensive because I believe KDH is working hard on it,” characterizing it as the “most creative of all the [Dare County] towns” in that regard. “I also have a little bit of that NIMBY-ism myself…Because we are so densely populated…we have to protect the integrity of the town…Kill Devil Hills is maxed out.”

For her part, Ingram indicated that when it comes to working on the housing crisis, “I think Kill Devil Hills has been part of the solution for a while. I think it’s going to take a lot of different solutions…incentivizing and thinking out of the box.”  One potential solution, she noted, would be to incentivize property owners to restore Airbnb’s to the long-term housing market.

When asked about a recent item slipped into the state budget that would curtail the towns’ authority to regulate affordable housing projects funded by a $35 million state grant, all four candidates clearly stated that they would not support any such project.  On Oct. 6, all six Dare County municipalities filed suit against the state challenging that controversial budget provision.

During the forum, the candidates also took the opportunity to talk about the interests and perspectives they bring to town governance.

“I’m running, personally, as an attorney,” said McAvoy. “I’m trained as a critical thinker, and I look at everything with a bit of a skeptical approach.” He characterized himself as a “contrarian…a fly in the ointment.”

Citing her work as a pre-school teacher, a childcare owner and a former chair of the Surfrider Foundation, Ingram said “I’m always leading the with children in mind, with the environment in mind.” In discussing some of the town’s challenges, she added that “We would be kidding ourselves if we said this town hasn’t had growing pains.”

Noting the impact that COVID had on the functioning of the town, Sproul noted that “the pandemic put a lot of things on hold, particularly capital improvement ideas. I feel like there is some unfinished business,” including improving beach access, providing more public access to the sound and improving biking and pedestrian facilities.

In his opening remarks, Windley noted his work on the town’s board of commissioners as well as with a number of community organizations, stating that “I have the experience and community connection needed to serve as mayor.”

Asked about the most pressing issue in the town, the candidates provided some varying responses. Windley, who said during the forum that “I feel obliged to protect the heritage and tradition of our town,” indicated that “housing seems to be the hot button issue of the time.”

Ingram said she likes “to visualize fifteen, twenty, even thirty years down the road,” adding that from that viewpoint, she is “concerned about redevelopment” in the town.

Sproul acknowledged that “housing is the most pressing issue broadly,” but he also talked about the important of town upkeep and maintaining its attractive appearance as important for community morale and commerce.

McAvoy expressed similar sentiments, stating that “I think we need to focus on the common areas,” citing the need to, among other things, “make our parks really attractive.”

Visit League of Women Voters of Dare County website to watch Dare County Candidate Forums.

SEE ALSO: Housing issues are front and center at Manteo candidates’ forum

Candidates make their case at Kitty Hawk forum

Southern Shores Council hopefuls vie for votes at LWV candidate forum


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  • Czarina

    Tell me how demolishing cottages and building multi-million dollar mansions protects the heritage and tradition of the town? I’ve been coming to OBX since 1970 and am thoroughly disgusted officials choosing $$$ over tradition.

    Saturday, Oct 14 @ 10:08 am
  • Ed

    If a private business attempts to house their staff using public funds, then that business must return their revenue back to those of us who have subsidized them. (more than just taxes, we all pay taxes). They can’t have it both ways.

    Saturday, Oct 14 @ 11:25 am
  • Butter that bread

    Ben Sproul wants to use taxpayers money to build subsidized apartments that will be available for non-local retired seniors to move to the beach. Good thing for Carolista that he wasn’t driving the bulldozer that day.

    He currently works for Surf or Sound Realty and he used to be president of the Outer Banks Restaurant Association. He knows which side is bread is buttered on.

    Saturday, Oct 14 @ 11:29 am
  • Steve Johnson

    What ever views these candidates represent please do not support the idea that housing should be created on this beach for low income. Anyone who suggests that should not be in a position of public power. Development for housing needs should be sought from the highest and best use of real estate, which is across the bridge in any direction.

    Saturday, Oct 14 @ 11:38 am
  • Rich

    I SO hope that Ben Sproul gets ousted as mayor!!!

    Saturday, Oct 14 @ 11:39 am
  • Steve Johnson

    Great comment, ditto Czarina!

    Saturday, Oct 14 @ 11:40 am
  • Buck C

    Czarina, you do understand that these historic cottages are privately owned, correct? The Town of KDH actually has a Historic Deferment Program for historical houses that actually gives the owners a tax break and protects against them being torn down for at least a year after a property transfers hands. It is okay to be mad about the mansions being built, I had to see it too, but this is not the elected officials that are in this article’s fault.

    Saturday, Oct 14 @ 12:07 pm
  • Obxserver

    The Nimby charge again! Wish I lived in KDH so I could vote for John Windley!

    Look this isn’t about the sneaky terms “affordable Housing” and ” Essential Workforce Housing” and it’s not about being a “nimby” It’s about changing current zoning to increase density to allow developers to make the maximum amount of money from a given project.

    They’re just using those terms to appeal to the good conscience of good people who try to live up to principles like the 2nd Commandment where we are instructed “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”, and fall for the Trojan Horse of those terms and don’t want to be thought of as “nimbys” who put themselves above their neighbors.

    Don’t be tricked. Ironic that in KDH the issue revolves around the Baum Tract. Over 50 years ago a young mother stood in front of the bulldozer. What a perfect image. She literally stood in front of the bulldozer. There is a long list of others. I guess the were all nimbys as well and we can thank them for the preservation of National Natural Landmarks like Nags Head Woods and Jockeys Ridge and Run Hill which is adjacent to the Baum Tract.

    Looks like there are some more bulldozers to block. I guess there always will be. Don’t get fooled by this false appeal to your better angels. Don’t let these zoning changes to higher density take place in your communities and neighborhoods. If defending the OBX, defending our communities and neighborhoods and the future of our children makes me a nimby then I guess I’m proud to be one.

    Saturday, Oct 14 @ 2:05 pm
  • kdh backseat reviewer

    There is a Tuesday in November 2023 that all registered voters in KDH have an opportunity to push/pull a lever/button that can decide whom will possible be a leader on this topic.

    The real topic on that Tuesday will be the actual number of voters participating in the election vs the actual number of voters not participating in the election. Our town has a sad history of voters NOT participating on election day.

    Saturday, Oct 14 @ 4:00 pm
  • Jockey's Ridge Estates

    “Obxserver” hit the nail on the head. If it wasn’t for that damn NIMBY Carolista Baum we could now have Jockey’s Ridge Estates with hundreds of McMansions and some low income housing projects to provide cheap apartments for the restaurant association. Instead we are stuck with that useless 427 acre pile of sand.

    Saturday, Oct 14 @ 4:24 pm
  • Travis

    I’m not sure where all the hate on Ben comes from. I mean, there’s certainly an opinion amongst some of the population in KDH that wants affordable housing. Ben was representing the opinion of those voters by asking the Board consider building something back there in the woods behind the schools. Clearly that is not what the majority of people in KDH wanted and that’s exactly how the vote on the board reflected. That’s how democracy is supposed to work.

    How dare you express an opinion different than my own? That’s just childish. And if it is the case, then I expect everyone commenting here will also vote to toss every single one of the County commissioners because they’ve repeatedly tried to put affordable housing somewhere in Dare despite being repeatedly thwarted.

    Now, if Ben was behind a significant number of issues the majority of people in KDH opposed, that would be a different story. But I think 99% of the board’s votes are unanimous, which means there’s been a bit of thought going into the issues before they comes up for a vote. Whatever disagreements there are get hammered out beforehand.

    Sunday, Oct 15 @ 5:32 pm
  • Just Another Mike

    Government can’t solve the affordable housing issue. Sorry. People will have to figure out how to solve their own problems. I know it’s tough to hear, but name one resort community that has solved it.

    Monday, Oct 16 @ 6:31 am
  • Dan-O

    “NIMBY” is only bad if the object you don’t want in your back yard is a good one. Who says this is a “good” object? This is about greed only; and everyone knows where the “affordable housing” takes us. And if the powers-that-be are trying to appeal to our altruism to swindle us with Orwellian speak like “affordable” and “essential workforce housing,” I wish they had the same altruistic ideals when I was buying a house. Bummer; I had to come up with a down payment & maintenance funds all by myself.

    Monday, Oct 16 @ 8:14 am
  • John Reston

    Funny, when I worked in the city, I had to commute my job. Why? because it was too expensive to live near my office. Doesn’t it make sense for that same issue to apply to our beloved beach?

    Oh, right, I forgot. Everyone is absolutely ~entitled~ to live near their place of employment with zero expectation of a modestly inconvenient commute.

    There will never be ‘affordable’ housing in KDH unless incomes rise alongside the price of homes – and that ain’t gonna happen. These elected officials & builders know that – they just want to grab more cash for themselves.

    Monday, Oct 16 @ 12:25 pm
  • RicknKDH

    Ben, Bottom Line. You can’t use the tract. If you won’t follow basic rules, then you’re outta here.

    Monday, Oct 16 @ 10:14 pm