Nags Head BOC nixes planning board proposal on multi-family dwellings, opts for task force

By on February 25, 2024

Nags Head Mayor Ben Cahoon said the text amendment was too restrictive. Commissioner Megan Lambert said the amendment was complex, but addressed key concerns.

Meeting on Feb. 7, the Nags Head Commissioners rejected a text amendment approved by the Nags Head Planning Board that would have permitted multi-family dwelling in certain parts of town—opting instead to create a task force to work on the issue.

The planning board’s unanimous approval of the amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) came in January after nine months of deliberations. Concerned, however, that some of the provisions were too restrictive, Commissioner Kevin Brinkley and Mayor Ben Cahoon spoke out against the proposed text amendment at the Feb. 7 meeting.

“I have heard from a person in the building community that this will not work…I have no interest in adopting an ordinance…that’s going to be so restrictive and so cumbersome that they’re not going to build units,” Brinkley said.

Commissioner Megan Lambert, who had been the Vice Chair of the Nags Head Planning Board before her recent election to the board of commissioners, pushed back on the criticism.

“When I was on the planning board and we first talked about why we needed to do this, the thing that kept coming up was year-around housing and workforce housing,” she said, adding, “It’s a complex document, but I think those complexities are details that need to be in there. If you’re a neighbor next to one of these possible development…those complexities those details are going to be really important to you. So I like the document I see in front of me,” she said.

The planning board’s actions were in response to the town placing a moratorium on multi-family construction following more than a year of vigorous public debate. At their January 2023 meeting, the commissioners placed a moratorium on all multi-family permits in the C-2 Commercial district. The moratorium effectively blocked all multi-family construction within the town. These moves came after the Woda Cooper unsuccessfully proposed a 54-unit housing development on the corner of Hollowell Street and U.S. 158 across from Jockey’s Ridge State Park.

Following discussion at the Feb. 7 meeting, commissioners voted to table the ordinance and instead form a task force consisting of members of the public, construction and banking interests and planning board members to develop a new text amendment. The motion passed 4-0 with Mayor Pro Tem Mike Siers absent.

The creation of a task force to address commissioner concerns is not normally how revisions to proposed text amendments are addressed, Planning Board Chair Megan Vaughn told the Voice in a phone interview.

“It is unusual in my experience,” she said. “I fully expected with an ordinance of this size and magnitude and impact that we would, that it would come back to us. I certainly didn’t expect the Board of Commissioners would say, ‘Oh, this is perfect. Boom, it’s done.’”

The proposed text amendment contained a number of provisions that Nags Head had never included in the past. Many of those provisions came directly from an August joint meeting of the commissioners and planning board on the text amendment that commissioners and the planning board agreed should be included in a revised UDO.

The amendment included deed restrictions that required a 90-day or longer residence, Dare county work requirements for some portion of the rental units, and density and green space requirements that addressed citizen concerns about the look and feel of the town.

Cahoon, in an interview with the Voice, wondered whether bankers “would finance this kind of project with these deed restrictions.” He also raised the same concern that Brinkley had raised about whether the projects could be built and questioned whether restrictions that would require Dare County employment would place an undue burden on developers.

“We hadn’t asked for” information on those concerns. “The Planning Board hadn’t asked for it. I think it’s frankly a little beyond the purview of the planning board to ask for it,” Cahoon went on to say. “I think that’s our board’s job. That’s why I didn’t want to kick it back because I really felt as though…the burden of investigating those question is a board goal to accomplish.”

This particular ordinance, Cahoon said, is unusual. Most ordinances, he said are designed to restrict an activity.

“You’re trying to stop a giant house from being built on the ocean. So you craft a rule that stops it from happening, and it’s pretty easy to write those restrictions,” he said. But, he added, “We want to see multifamily housing…We want to see results and the only tool that we have, as a town…to try to incentivize it to any degree is our ordinance.”

The proposed amendment was designed to create housing opportunities—something nine out of ten Nags Head residents felt was important in a 2023 citizen survey.

At the Feb. 7 commissioners meeting, Cahoon suggested task force members could be named by the March meeting, although when asked about the timeline, he sounded a cautious note. Nags Head Planning Director Kelly Wyatt confirmed in an email that two Planning Board Members, Molly Harrison and Meade Gwinn, have been recommended to be seated on the task force.

Vaughn, after working on the proposed text amendments for nine months, said there is urgency to develop workable multi-family ordinances, and expressed some reservations about how fast a task force can address the issues.

“The task force certainly isn’t going to make things move quickly,” she said. “I hope they don’t have a big agenda, frankly, because that would seem to be counterproductive to the purpose of the task force.”

“This is important, but it’s not so urgent that we have to put something out there just to get it out there” countered Cahoon in the Voice interview. “We’re going get this right, as right as we can get,” he said.


  • Steven

    Most of the rental houses are ‘multi-family dwellings’
    Eight bedrooms is not ‘single family’

    Sunday, Feb 25 @ 4:01 pm
  • Dethrol

    This sounds familiar. Where else might we have heard about task forces established to do things government is not empowered to do….? I wonder…. Mayor Cahoon should be able to explain, since he’s on this other Task Force, doing the same thing. Double-dipping is a terrible idea, unless you are a big government, legislative overreach kind of person. I’m not!

    End all of this madness before it grows any more.

    Sunday, Feb 25 @ 4:51 pm
  • Ann Broadhead

    Is it possible to do a long term (99 yr) lease of land in lower Currituck County and build the exact needs as perceived by needs, or build on right out purchased land. That will ensure to fully meet current and future needs. It would be prudent to only build what is needed with room for future if needed, or not being stuck with empty dwellings if we have a massive downfall in the economy.
    Several parcels right and left sides of hwy, across the bridge, on way to Grandy.
    There are small single bldg. just inside gate at Kilmarlich subdivision and golf course as an example or larger. Landscape for privacy.
    Dare County;We had some sort of agreement in reverse with buildings in Kitty Hawk on west side of bypass, for medical services in Elizabeth City.
    There is a new town house subdivision being built on west side of HWY on way to Grandy, above the water park somewhere.

    Sunday, Feb 25 @ 6:05 pm
  • Lisa

    KDH needs to stop any cluster housing as well. The community doesn’t want it. They also don’t want any more of the super size houses that they call houses when they are really hotels. 32 bedrooms in one proposal-that is not a house.

    Sunday, Feb 25 @ 6:57 pm
  • Jay

    I wonder who the builder was that advised Brinkley the proposal would not work? SAGA?

    Sunday, Feb 25 @ 7:01 pm
  • Mr. Ed

    The amount of money and man hours that goes into perhaps constructing something someday maybe, knowing it will be barely a drop in the bucket and solve nothing, gives me brain cramps.

    Sunday, Feb 25 @ 7:01 pm
  • Troubadare

    The solution to the “affordable housing“ issue is the solution that could solve many problems, and that is for the government to butt out. There are business owners on the Outer Banks who find places to stay for their employees and charge them accordingly. No law is going to say that anyone from anywhere is eligible to stay in these places, because they are privately owned and controlled. Before someone goes into business for themselves on the Outer Banks, they should know that this is a problem they will face and are going to have to solve it themselves. If they are not up for the task, then they should not go in business. If this makes going into business unaffordable, then that is fine and the growth of the Outer Banks will slow down, and that will make a lot of people happy. Not to mention that it is horribly tyrannical to force the taxpayers to foot this bill. Taxes should not be levied to underwrite the special needs of private enterprise. Period.

    Sunday, Feb 25 @ 10:42 pm
  • Jeff Walker

    Ah the good ol’ task force. The tried and true method for saying we took a stab at working on something we have no intention of ever actually doing.

    Monday, Feb 26 @ 6:08 am
  • Freenusa

    “Affordable”, “Employee” housing should not be a government issue. This problem was created by private businesses that their owners, grew the business beyond the limitations of our unique area. I am not begrudging them but they should be responsible for housing, (better pay, employee housing). Government should not incentivize private businesses, to provide housing for their employees. It is the business that created its own problem. Some say it’s been a problem for 30 years, wake up business owners!

    Monday, Feb 26 @ 6:58 am
  • Charles

    Looking forward to the “Task Force” having a town hall so they can do a deep dive
    and roll up their sleeves on this issue. Then they can circle back with everyone and let us know
    that no one wants anyone to live near them.

    Monday, Feb 26 @ 9:07 am
  • Notanisland

    If we form a study group of select members of these task force to form a committee, we could in turn create a conglomerate of untold wisdom

    Monday, Feb 26 @ 9:28 am
  • surf123

    @Thoubadare…As you stated the taxpayers will lose. To me a little more clearer on our point about businesses and employees…it is not a government function to facilitate housing for private or public business employees. There is no profitable route to building affordable housing unless government funds are involved and the government has no business funding or subsidizing house construction. I’m certain some unscrupulous builders (local or from elsewhere) would be happy to partner with the towns or county to “help” build affordable housing. The best use for all land is for tourist rentals or supporting services.

    Monday, Feb 26 @ 9:56 am
  • Travis

    @Jeff Walker: Hahahahaha! Exactly. 100%

    I would bet 9 out of 10 residents would agree that a landfill is an important thing to have for any large community. The same percentage would not want it built next to them.

    This is essentially the problem workforce housing is facing.

    And the solution is probably going to be the same as the landfill: put it somewhere out of the way that the good citizens of Dare don’t have to see except in passing as they are driving west.

    Monday, Feb 26 @ 1:16 pm
  • Derek

    Based on current real estate prices in Dare county at what price point would a dwelling be considered affordable?

    Tuesday, Feb 27 @ 8:19 am
  • Charles

    Derek, it would be considered affordable if you bring a family of 20 and only stay for a week.

    Tuesday, Feb 27 @ 9:59 am
  • RicknKDH

    Hot off the Outer Banks Voice today in an article stating, “Dare County’s 2023 meals and collections numbers up modestly over 2022” I’m glad to see the good news. For a while there, I thought we had a workforce housing problem.

    Tuesday, Feb 27 @ 2:37 pm
  • Obxserver

    This whole conversation above has drifted into being about something different than the situation described ( sorta? incompletely?) in the news article. Nags Head placed a moratorium on multi-family development in the C-2 general commercial zoning districts of town. Evidently This moratorium was put in place based on the realization that there is extensive acreage in Nag’s Head currently zoned C-2 General Commercial. If developed or redeveloped as multi- family residential this could result over time in the building of literally thousands (more than 2000?) condominiums. As a couple of reference points the Sugar Creek Condominiums south of the Outlet Mall sit on about 1.8 acres of high buildable land and have 44 units per the Dare County Tax Info. Based on this there is @ one unit per 1800′ sq. of buildable surface land. To put this in perspective the Satterfield Landing shopping area ( TJ Maxx, Staples, Pet Smart, The Bowling Alley) could be the site for possibly @ 225 residential units

    There’s a lot of C-2 general commercial in Nags Head. This review and proposed zoning is an attempt to get a tent around this potential circus. It proposes larger buffers with existing single family residential development and less density in part by requiring 3500 ‘ sq. per residential unit and that projects not be multi-story but instead be town-houses and not stacked more densely one atop the other. It also proposes to use deed restrictions to try and keep the development actual residential with a mix of retiree and workforce requirements but the workforce requirement is not income based. The idea is to add more potential year-round living options for residents instead of more vacation condos. Of course this would lower the number of units that could be built. This in turn would limit the potential profit of development. The idea is to take the existing situation and do what is possible in a balanced way to benefit the residents and property owners of Nags Head short of re-zoning lots of C-2 ( which is becoming increasingly unnecessary) OR building multi-story high density condominiums all over town.

    Tuesday, Feb 27 @ 3:47 pm
  • David Smith

    I agree with Jeff Walker. Rather than make a decision on a controversial subject start a task force.

    Tuesday, Feb 27 @ 8:42 pm