Currituck Board defers decision on proposal to alter permitting for large projects, including SAGA hotel complex

By on June 5, 2024

Don Haller presents his text amendment to the Currituck Commissioners. (Credit: Courtesy of Kip Tabb)

Concerned about the potential impacts from a proposed 172-room hotel and 127 single-family-home development in Corolla, longtime Corolla property owner Don Haller presented a text amendment to revise the permitting process for projects larger than 30,000 square feet at the June 3 Currituck Board of Commissioners meeting.

“This is solely my proposal,” Haller told the commissioners. “It’s not on behalf of any other person or organization.”

During Haller’s presentation, the commissioners raised concerns about some of the provisions in the proposal, including possible additional costs to developers and whether an existing business that would be nonconforming with the proposed amendment could be rebuilt if damaged.

Faced with unresolved questions, the commissioners voted unanimously to postpone any decision on the text amendment until their Sept. 16 meeting.

The proposal contains a number of changes that would substantially alter the permitting process for building large projects in Corolla. Currently, a new hotel or motel project is required to meet the county’s basic permitting requirements, but Haller’s amendment would require a Special Use Permit (SUP) for such projects that would necessitate a public hearing.

Even if Haller’s text amendment is adopted at the September meeting, it is unclear if it will have any impact on hotel and single-family-home project proposed by CB Land LLC, the development company that SAGA created for the project—which will be located at the intersection of Herring Street and NC12.  Nor is it certain that all of the provisions of the proposed text amendment would be included.

Currituck Board Chair Bob White, emphasizing that he was speaking for himself, told the Voice he doubted the board would include language in a new text amendment that would force SAGA to seek a new SUP for the project.

“The hotel portion, the commissioners really liked what they wanted to do on the property. It’s I think a $170 million project, great for the tax base and provides another product that we need in Corolla,” he said.

Haller’s proposal would also require a stormwater retention plan and Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA). Commissioner Selena Jarvis, agreed with Haller on the need for TIAs at the meeting.

“I think a traffic impact is important. What that does is it illustrates, to me who’s making the decision, how it’s going to impact the quality of life of the people who are living and visiting there,” she said. “I don’t have a problem with a traffic impact analysis,” White told the Voice

In recommending the county include TIAs, Haller directly referenced Imagine Currituck 2040, the county’s land use planning document. The document calls for TIAs, although it does not offer specific guidance for when such an analysis should be used.

Haller noted that the lack of TIAs raised safety concerns when considering a proposal as large as the hotel-housing complex. He added that it is his hope his text amendment will force the developer of the complex to scale back their development.

“What I’m getting at is the size and scale of this project is what is going to create the risk,” he told the Voice in a phone call. “The BOC [Board of Commissioners] cannot assess traffic risks to pedestrian safety, because a hotel is just one of many authorized uses of a lot zoned as commercial. It is treated no differently than the tiny seven-room Wild Horse Inn in Corolla.”

The first phase of the project, a sketch plan of the condominiums and townhouses has been approved by the commissioners and will include “high end luxury townhomes to start with [to] raise capital,” White told the Voice.

The second phase will be the hotel and White, acknowledging this is the largest project proposed in Corolla in some time, is unsure what steps will be needed to move that part of the project forward.

“It’s unclear whether he [the developer] has to come back for the use permit for the hotel or not,” he said.

In addition, The Whalehead Property Owner’s Association has filed an action against CB Land and SAGA and has created a Gofundme page seeking help with legal fees. According to the Gofundme appeal, “This proposed SAGA project will undoubtedly endanger the public health and safety of Corolla residents and visitors.” There is a hearing in that case, scheduled in August.

Regardless of the outcome of that hearing, Currituck County Attorney Megan Morgan felt the developer will probably be allowed to continue work that was permitted under previous rules.

“(The) developer could argue vested rights,” she said. “They could say, ‘We’re relying on the rules at the time of the initial application…The law says that if there’s any gray area whether an individual has vested rights or not, you really should rule in the favor of the landowner.”

Haller contends that he is not prohibiting building a hotel, rather calling into question the scale of the development and whether it is appropriate for Corolla.

“They’re not being deprived of a vested right to build,” he said. “It’s [still] an authorized use of property…But to pay no attention and scrutiny of impacts whether it’s a seven-room hotel or a 172-room hotel makes no public policy sense.”


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Comments

  • OBXed

    Hey, Boob White. At what point are you going to stop speaking for yourself and start speaking for the residents that put you in office? Corolla doesn’t need, nor can it staff, a new hotel.

    Wednesday, Jun 5 @ 11:10 pm
  • More cars

    How about building a bridge first? Currituck County is blind to the traffic BS they create with their neverending construction. It’s irresponsible.

    Thursday, Jun 6 @ 6:16 am
  • Prof Braddock

    “…the commissioners really liked what they wanted to do on the property. It’s I think a $170 million project, great for the tax base and provides another product that we need in Corolla,”
    Pretty much says it all. Corolla is already grossly overbuilt but it’s all about the money. This article pretty much says that SAGA will ultimately get whatever it wants, impact to the area be damned.

    Thursday, Jun 6 @ 7:49 am
  • Greg

    No high density/occupancy projects should be built in Corolla until the Mid Currituck Bridge is built.

    Thursday, Jun 6 @ 7:51 am
  • OBXRon

    “Great for the tax base” in Currituck but what happens when all those people have to evacuate during the next big hurricane and the road in Duck is flooded and blocked? Will Currituck commisioners then think this was such a good idea when people are stranded and some don’t make it through the storm?

    Thursday, Jun 6 @ 7:59 am
  • Mike Momenee

    Mr. Haller’s suggested amendments to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) are sound; reflect provisions already contained in the UDO for other types of developments; are in keeping with the County’s very own land-use planning documents; and were unanimously recommended for approval by Currituck County’s Planning Board. Developers can and often do propose amendments to the UDO up until the time their projects are ready to be constructed, and the Board of Commissioners (BOC) often rubber-stamps these developer-initiated amendments without debate or significant discussion. I don’t know why I expect anything different from our elected officials, but it would be remarkable if they stopped looking solely at short-term monetary gains and began looking at what their constituents want and what is best for the communities they serve.

    Thursday, Jun 6 @ 8:13 am
  • Alice

    Thank you, Don Haller, for your proposal to amend the UDO and promote long term preservation of Corolla in accordance with Currituck County’s Vision 2040 Plan.

    It is also important to note that County Planning Commission not only UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED these UDO amendments on 5/14/24 but seemed very enthusiastic about their adoption for the betterment of Corolla. The potential 172-room hotel and adjacent 127-multifamily complex at Herring St and Rt 12 is exactly what Corolla does NOT need. If the BOC wants to ruin the natural beauty and family friendly community that is Corolla, unrestrained and unnecessary growth of this nature is the quickest way to ensure that they will do it. Over the last year, I have been actively involved with a grassroot effort to garner homeowner and community feedback about the proposed hotel and other disproportionate and detrimental commercial expansion in Corolla. Currently, I have over 2,200 signatures on a petition against the hotel and other similar developments and have received countless other personal notes and calls to attest to the fact that no one owning, or I would daresay MOST visitors, desire this sort of large-scale commercialization in Corolla.

    For those reasons and others, I wholeheartedly believe that adoption of these UDO amendments will help to preserve the natural beauty and community of Corolla AND provide our elected representatives with the data and tools needed to ensure that development throughout Currituck County is effectively, consistently, and sustainably managed.
    I would implore the BOC to place importance on the long-term ecological and sustainability of the Corolla and Currituck region and not just immediate monetary gain, and immediately adopt the UDO amendments that have been so heartily endorsed by their own County Planning Committee.

    It will be a monumental day when Bob White’s term expires at the end of 2024, and we can start to eliminate Currituck County’s “good old boy” mentality that is obviously tied heavily to unrestrained, unnecessary and undesired commercial development in our beloved coastal community.

    Thursday, Jun 6 @ 8:35 am
  • Another made up name

    Can we give up on the Bridge idea and put a road in now? There is only so much people can do to limit what a property owner can do. Most of this should have been done back during the Bassnite Era (a long and distinct period of history with a particular feature or characteristic.) That’s perfect reference. The traffic in carova, though funny and gives some people something to do is really bad and there’s just a matter of time before something really bad happens. The horses need move, again, and infrastructure will naturally be needed as more homes are built. It’s already there. Can’t stop it. If I was SAGA, I would start taking this personally.

    Thursday, Jun 6 @ 8:46 am
  • Lisa

    Wow, I’m shocked that the commissioners are about to kill the Golden Goose. To allow a huge hotel like the Hilton Garden Inn in Kitty Hawk is really not a smart move….unless you want Corolla to be the next over built VA beach. Hey commissioners, why don’t you ask the people who own/live there if they want it? Even ask those who travel past VA beach for years to come to Corolla to see if they want it? Because you know they don’t, right? And you don’t care about what your constituents want, right? You only want to tax dollars from the builder or the increase money spent from the tourists….until you kill the peaceful vibe totally and they stop coming. Shame on you all for allowing this.

    Thursday, Jun 6 @ 10:13 am
  • Beachie Keen

    I’d think Southern Shores and Duck would oppose the project. The traffic study is not solely about pedestrians- Rt12 North’s congestion is unsafe during tourist season. A low estimate adds 5,000 more tourists per week and even if 4 to a vehicle 1250 more cars.

    And I’d like to see a risk analysis for adequate water, sewage, fire, EMS, LE along with an updated estimate of the impact the project will have on property owners and residents. Already small 2-bedroom cluster units apparently not requiring a 3- night minimum have cut into the single family home bookings.

    Thursday, Jun 6 @ 10:52 am
  • MikeM

    puting up some ugly fugly mega hotel in Corola changes the character of the community, and if you think that will be the end of it, there are many more on the way just like this one.

    Thursday, Jun 6 @ 5:13 pm
  • Disgusted

    I can’t wait for the door to hit Bob White in the rear. Shame on him and the other BOC’s for only looking at the $$. You are ruining this gem of a beach for financial gain. Short sighted if not derelict of your duty. You are not protecting your constituents you are hurting them. Open your eyes folks, speak up now, this UDO should be accepted immediately before saga has a chance to amend their plans. Disgusted with the way this has been handled.

    Thursday, Jun 6 @ 9:47 pm
  • Forgotten Point

    For those who watched Mr Haller’s original presentation to the Planning Board(btw unanimously approved) a missing point is that the proposed changes are for the whole county. With all the saga signs on the mainland and other developers eyeing land existing mainland properties could have major projects abutting their homes and yards.
    The proposal is a step to help unify the county.

    Regarding traffic, in addition to Rt12, Rt 158 is a challenge for entrance and exit with increasing danger using the turn lane during summer. I think those residents and small businesses would agree adding more traffic along with the environmental pollution is not in keeping with preserving health and safety for all including the tourists.

    Friday, Jun 7 @ 10:28 am
  • Just a tourist

    I’m just a tourist, and realize my opinion may be disregarded by many. My wife and I have been coming to Corolla since 1998. We were drawn to the area precisely because it was not like Virginia Beach. As someone mentioned earlier, we are one of those who drive the extra 2+ hours to go to an area that we love because of its natural beauty. Every year when we visit we are heartbroken by the number of new homes being built in places that were so beautiful. It breaks my heart to think that those who live here full time seem to have no say in what happens in their own backyards. Corolla has changed a lot since 1998, and not always for the better. I hope you don’t lose what all of you love and the reason so many of us return to visit every year.

    Friday, Jun 7 @ 1:45 pm
  • Whalehead

    Who will be legally liable if, during a hurricane, an inability to evacuate all the guests from the northern OBX causes injuries or deaths? A decision to move forward with this development without taking into consideration evacuation risks is criminally negligent.

    Friday, Jun 7 @ 2:48 pm
  • John boy

    OMG..when is enough, enough!!! Corolla was once a quaint, quiet fishing village. Now you can barely get from point a to b in the summer time. Cars; pedestrians; bikes; joggers; golf carts so lets add more rooms and more people. Of course Bob White would think its a great idea….more people to put out there for his horse tour business. Commissioner’s you were put in office to represent the majority and its clear the majority don’t want a hotel of any type in Corolla!! So do what you were elected for. STOP this overbuilding for the sake of a damn dollar!!

    Friday, Jun 7 @ 9:36 pm
  • lee

    Now other people in the county are getting a taste of the greed from our commissioner as the people in carova and swan beach have been experiencing with the horse tour for years. Why should Bob care he does not live in corolla he lives on the mainland. More people, more tours and more money for him.

    Saturday, Jun 8 @ 6:05 am
  • What's the point

    Just selling out the OBX one acre at a time. Let’s ruin the wildlife that made this place what it is and cater to thousands of people who don’t live here. Build the bridge and say screw the ecosystem. Smart. Very smart.

    Monday, Jun 10 @ 11:31 am
  • Stuck in traffic

    My comment is for the hurricane evacuation folks.
    Dude we evacuate the beach every weekend and replace with more people. Oh yeah don’t forget all the venders that had to do there thing.
    So if any ding dong gets washed away, it’s his/her own dang fault.
    You’ll have plenty of time to leave!
    And you ain’t an outer banker if you run and hide.

    Monday, Jun 10 @ 2:23 pm
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