SAGA denied Southern Shores special permit

By on November 22, 2023

Wastewater treatment facility at core of concerns

Matt Huband, the designated representative of Southern Shores Landing describing the inadequacies of the wastewater treatment plant during public comment. (Credit: Kip Tabb/OBV)

Citing inadequate wastewater treatment from a facility owned by the developer SAGA Realty, the Southern Shores Planning Board unanimously rejected a special use permit (SUP) for a mixed retail and residential project at its meeting on Monday Nov. 20.

A request for the permit for the project, located on US 158 after it exits the Wright Memorial Bridge in Southern Shores, was filed by Ginguite, LLC, the company SAGA had established to manage the project.

The proposed development, on approximately seven acres along Ginguite Creek, has faced strong resistance from Southern Shores residents, especially the residents of neighboring Southern Shores Landing.

The first speaker during public comment at the meeting, Matt Huband, identified himself as the designated representative of Southern Shores Landing. His comments, listing some of the issues confronting residents of the subdivision, specifically cited the inadequacies of the wastewater treatment plant that services Southern Shores Landing and would also service the proposed SAGA development.

“Since [SAGA has] owned the plant, our community has continually dealt with sewage smells multiple times, the system has failed and the effluent would run out of the manhole covers and flow down Landing Trail,” he said.

He noted that even though the plant has a history of inadequately treating sewage, it had requested a rate increase—more than doubling the current $90 monthly fee to $232.

“We strongly encourage the planning board attorney to request a fully functioning sewer plant as it was designed before approving any development,” Huband said.

Located on the west side of the intersection of US158 and South Dogwood Trail, the plant has a capacity to handle up to 32,500 gallons of wastewater per day and is the only facility available to treat the wastewater the proposed development would create.

During the meeting, the planning board examined in detail a number of issues it had asked the applicant to address. There were 26 written questions that were covered at the meeting. Although committee members expressed concern about traffic, soil conditions and design elements of the architecture, the focus of their concerns was on the wastewater treatment plant.

Research presented by Planning Board Member Ed Lawler indicated a history of failed inspections at the plant site. According to documentation Lawler provided at the meeting, there had been two inspections in the past five years and in both cases, the plant did not meet minimal standards.

“The summary was the facility is noncompliant,” he said. “There were numerous deficiencies in the equipment and operation and the maintenance of the facility. The…monitoring wells outside of the wastewater plant, they have exceeded their limits.”

Based on the findings of failed inspections, Planning Board Chair Andy Ward stated his concerns that “Since assuming ownership of their wastewater treatment plant in March of 2017, the Gupta-managed LLC continues to operate it in a manner that is detrimental to the health, safety and welfare, not only of our town citizens, but of all the surrounding communities that enjoy clean air and water quality. I think it is incumbent upon our town to put as much pressure and resources as possible to force the Gupta-managed LLC that owns and operates this wastewater treatment plant into compliancy with the permit that it currently holds and owns.”

Ward followed his remarks with a motion to reject the special use permit. The motion passed unanimously. With the announcement that the special use permit for the project was denied, the audience of several dozen people who came to watch the proceedings in person broke into applause.

Sumit Gupta, chief executive officer of SAGA Realty, was present at the Nov. 20 meeting and was invited to speak, but he chose not to.

Interviewed later by the Voice, Gupta said the treatment plant, now run by an emergency operator, had been poorly managed since before he bought it. He added that SAGA had spent roughly $700,000 to improve its infrastructure. And he also pointed out that the $90 monthly rate had been in effect for some time. In fact, it had been the rate since 2009 when the Utilities Commission established it.

As an advisory board, the planning board’s vote is a recommendation to the Southern Shores Town Council. The final determination of the status of special permit request will require a vote from council members.


  • Greg

    The current waste water treatment facility there is very odorous. It certainly could not handle any more load.

    Wednesday, Nov 22 @ 1:28 pm
  • james

    A town standing up for it’s citizens is often rare on the OBX. Is is retirees, property owners, and the wonderful citizens of our community that pay the vast majority of tax revenue on the OBX, not business or tourism dollars which gets 99% of the attention. Also, imagine your sewer fee going from $90 to $230. I don’t know much about these SAGA folks, but boy they sure seem to have a terrible reputation within our community.

    Wednesday, Nov 22 @ 2:50 pm
  • Glenn

    Excellent news! Kudos to those citizens of Southern Shores who stood up for their town!

    Wednesday, Nov 22 @ 4:28 pm
  • Dylan

    Seems that was a no brainer decision. SAGA pooping all over the outer banks.

    Wednesday, Nov 22 @ 5:03 pm
  • Steven

    Their reputation is, SAGA Destruction..

    Thursday, Nov 23 @ 7:03 am
  • pj

    In your face SAGA!

    Thursday, Nov 23 @ 8:04 am
  • Paul

    Thank goodness for a committee like The Planning board with it’s outstanding Chair , Andy Ward . They all did their homework well !!!
    Mr. Matt Huband should be recognised for a lot of unselfish time ! Thank You Matt !!!

    Thursday, Nov 23 @ 9:16 am
  • Sumit Pupta

    A lot of congratulations going on in the comments, the council could still approve the project against the commissions recommendation. Happens all the time, all over the place.

    Friday, Nov 24 @ 11:47 am
  • Thomas

    I have been living on the OBX for over 20 years. If you talk to local contractors around here about SAGA they will universally give the company poor marks for pay and quality work. This latest development noted above does not surprise me and I give Southern Shores government high marks for having the guts to stand up to SAGA. The site in question is a beautiful one and would make a nice park. Of course that wouldn’t make SAGA any money would it!

    Friday, Nov 24 @ 12:04 pm
  • surf123

    To fix the SAGA problem refuse all special use permits (SUP). This type of exception was created in zoning to allow for fixes or minor deviations. It was never meant to accommodate significant changes to the code to allow something to be built. Take a hard line on no SUP’s and SAGA will feel the pain.

    Friday, Nov 24 @ 2:24 pm
  • But then

    All of you spiking the football in these comments, you do realize the commissions recommendation could be ignored and the council could still approve it? Reading is a lost art.

    Friday, Nov 24 @ 9:31 pm
  • surf123

    @James…Do you have any facts to back up your statement on tax revenue. Take tourism away from Dare county and the tax revenue would look like any of the counties west of Dare with all of the tax revenue generated by residents. Removal of tourism tax dollars would leave the boat builders and greatly reduced numbers of retail workers, trades people, restauranteurs and government workers. If rental income was not available there would be very few second homes because most people cannot swing two homes without it. This roughly equates to flying where no one flies commercial if they can afford private. Given those facts the tourists do indeed generate the vast majority of all the various taxes and fees (sales, occupancy, meal and real estate are the big three). While we still would have a wide range of businesses there would be very few of each type. One example is grocery stores of which we have at least 10 where we would have 2 or 3 max and the stores would be a lot smaller. The advantage the locals have is the ability to vote, but the downside is the politicians are more interested in accommodating the tourist industry than focusing on the residents.

    Sunday, Nov 26 @ 11:21 am
  • Greg

    The development idea for that very low elevation property was ridiculous. That property is fill over a marsh. Currently it is less than 3’ above sea level. The sewer plant adjacent to it was totally reworked two years ago and still emits noxious odors. The pond next to it is covered with bright green algae. The dense residential development that depends on that system is obviously using it to its full capacity.

    Tuesday, Dec 12 @ 8:32 am