The Nags Head Board of Commissioners have delayed making changes to the zoning of the Historic Cottage Row district following a public hearing and discussion that lasted more than three hours on Wednesday.
For more details on what happened during the hearing, scroll through our live blog:
After the board entered a lunch recess, Mayor Ben Cahoon confirmed that changes to the text amendment will be brought back before the Board of Commissioners at their March 15 meeting.
- Click to read the full list of possible amendments as presented Wednesday by Planning Director Kelly Wyatt
Changes to the proposed map will be sent back to the Planning Board for review at the March 21 meeting, and then come before commissioners in April. A public hearing will have to be held on those map changes, according to Mayor Cahoon.
Asked about concerns over possible “spot zoning” of the property at the corner of Holowell Street and South Croatan Highway, Mayor Cahoon said that because the proposed changes have not been adopted then amending the map to expand the C5 district to include that tract was legal.
Commissioner Cahoon makes a motion for an updated proposal with the changes that were presented during the public hearing along with other changes in language. Commissioner Brinkley seconded, with all commissioners voting in favor.
Another motion from Commissioner Cahoon calls for the Planning Board to review changing the proposed map to address zoning of the property at the corner of Holowell and Croatan. Brinkley seconded, with the board voting in favor.
Concerns about the possibility that the second motion would be considered “spot zoning” would be addressed by the Planning Board.
The zoning ordinance amendments will be brought back to the board at the March 15 meeting, but it may be April at the earliest before the map changes would be considered. The next Planning Board meeting is on March 21.
Mayor Cahoon and Commissioner Cahoon are discussing that the moratorium can be allowed to expire because there is no longer a proposal for a multi-dwelling complex on the table, which removes some of the time pressure to make changes to the overall zoning.
Leidy notes that there were other commercial development pressures at the time the moratorium was instituted that would also be addressed under the zoning change.
Commissioner Siers brings up that registered short-term rentals in the C5 could be impacted, with Planning Director Wyatt noting that they could be grandfathered in.
Mayor Cahoon asks Planning Director Wyatt to return to the podium, and says they are leaning towards incorporating the amendments that were presented today before moving forward with a motion.
Wyatt is bringing those revisions up on the display to run through them with the board.
Commissioner Sanders says there is no intention to penalize businesses with the changes, and compliments the planning staff on their work.
Commissioner Brinkley thanks those who have called, emailed and commented, and the planning staff and board on their speed of getting this through over the last 5 months. He also expressed concern about the Holowell property being taxed at a higher rate than necessary.
Mayor Cahoon thanked the 25 people who commented today. He said “use is not what we get complaints about, its intensity of use such as noise, light and parking” and other factors.
The mayor said changing the long-standing designation of use for property as the owners have understood it for years would be “draconian”. He supports leaving the current uses in place as is. Mayor Cahoon also echoed Brinkley that residential doesn’t belong along Croatan Highway/US 158 in this area.
“I would prefer an ordinance and a map that would leave those intensive (commercial) uses along U.S. 158,” Mayor Cahoon said.
“I’ve been around a long time…this exact issue is why I got involved in the town in 1990,” Commissioner Renee Cahoon said, noting an attempt to down zone the oceanfront where she owns businesses that led her to run for office for the first time.
She notes the difficulties that making small businesses non-conforming will bring upon those small businesses.
Commissioner Cahoon wants to see the Holowell property that should be zoned C5, and also disagrees that the moratorium can’t be extended beyond the middle of March.
Commissioner Michael Siers says he had spent around 11 hours on the phone on Tuesday just on this topic alone.
“We have to do what’s best for the community,” Siers said.
The public hearing has concluded, and commissioners are now open to discuss the changes. Mayor Cahoon says there are modifications to the original proposal that need to be addressed before a motion can be made.
Mayor Ben Cahoon asks Town Attorney John Leidy to explain state law on how notification about the hearing and changes was conducted. He said the maximum amount of notice that can be given is 25 days under North Carolina statute, and the minimum of 10 days, along with the means of communicating with impacted and adjacent property owners.
Those requirements were met, according to Leidy.
Leidy also explains “spot zoning”, which only applies to property or properties with a single owner, and how the proposal for the entire area and smaller pockets does not apply.
And Leidy detailed why the soon-to-expire moratorium cannot be extended due to the lack of a change in conditions that led to the implementation of the moratorium.
The meeting has resumed, with additional questions from the commissioners for Planning Director Kelly Wyatt. Questions have ranged from the number of non-conforming businesses the proposed change impacts to how to implement similar changes town-wide.
Public comment has come to a close, and the board has entered a 15-minute recess.
A commenter tries to compare a now long-gone public housing project in Portsmouth, Virginia to what was proposed for Nags Head, and specifically called out Dare County Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard and commissioner Rob Ross for trying to “strong arm” Nags Head to approve the housing complex last year.
The owner of Surfside Casuals in Surfside Plaza, comments that the changes to the original proposal presented at the start of the hearing were relieving to hear regarding if having to rebuild in the district came out.
Courtney Gallop, owner of Gallop Funeral Service which is outside the district, says the changes should be delayed. She doesn’t want to see what happened to her business, when it was judged as non-conforming in certain areas, to happen to others.
Local REALTOR Bobby Harrell notes that the C2 zoning took place in 1969, and that the changes proposed will last well into the future. He asks for more time for careful review of the proposal.
More residential property owners in the proposed C5 district express their backing of the changes, sharing reasons why they made that part of Nags Head their home.
Beaman Hines, owner of Sooey’s BBQ, wants a deeper look into the changes and that the timing as well as communication to property owners impacted should have been more involved and detailed. He asks for more time to review and consider the changes.
More residents/homeowners in the Memorial Boulevard neighborhood express their support of the changes.
Elliot Katherman, the owner of the property that was proposed for the essential housing development at the corner of Hollowell and South Croatan Highway, who lives in South Nags Head, speaks on “the elephant in the room”.
He calls the changes “eminent domain” since it would specifically change his property from a commercial to residential use only.
A letter from Phillip Foreman, owner of Brew Thru, was unable to attend, was read by his mother to the commissioners. He calls the changes “spot zoning”, which is specifically illegal under North Carolina law.
Foreman also called the process “rushed” with the short notice of the changes, and urged a postponement for 90 or more days.
The letter also said the town is only listening to non-resident property owners that only recently purchased property here, and not to those who helped make the town what it is today.
Donna Creef, legislative affairs director for the Outer Banks Association of REALTORS and former Dare County Planning Director, also calls the proposal “down zoning” that would negatively impact the values of vacant lots.
She calls the amendments presented today as welcome changes, but still has concerns overall.
A pair of commenters say they aren’t opposed to the businesses that are in the district, but concerned about having 20,000 square foot buildings in the Historic Cottage Row area in the future that would negatively alter its charachter.
A Holowell Street-area resident says that allowing high density housing in that location will cause more problems with pedestrians and traffic with “high density housing”.
Mayor Ben Cahoon notes that R-3 zoning is listed as high-density because its for a single family home on a smaller lot than the R-2 designation.
Sandra Allen, CFO of Kitty Hawk Kites, asks that commissioners delay voting on the proposal, especially with the latest changes. She also notes the number of small businesses that could be eliminated by the zoning changes.
John Harris, founder of Kitty Hawk Kites, gives his reasons for opposition.
He notes the proposed amendments on rebuilding of non-confroming structures was a welcome change.
Harris also notes that the changes would “down zone” the district and negatively impact property values.
It would also be unfair to the businesses between Danube and Holowell compared to other businesses in the rest of the town.
A resident of Memorial Boulevard asks those in the audience who back the zoning changes to stand, with more than half in attendance showing their support.
Edwards asks the town to slow down on this change, noting the number of cottage courts that went away in South Nags Head when zoning changes took place there last decade.
Former Mayor Bob Edwards notes that the town had a chance while he was in office to purchase the Holowell Street property that was proposed for the multi-family development, but the town moved on the Dowdy Park property instead because there was no foreseeable use for the Holowell property at the time.
The floor is now open to public comment, limited to five minutes per person. Mayor Cahoon asks those who have their comment echoed by a pervious commenter to not be repetitive.
A moment of levity as Mayor Ben Cahoon recognizes Commissioner Renee Cahoon as “Mayor Cahoon” for any questions. She served as mayor from 1991 to 2000 and then 2005 to 2009. Current Mayor Cahoon even stood and offered his chair after she pointed out his statement.
Commissioner Cahoon said she will reserve her time for later in the hearing.
Mayor Ben Cahoon asks Wyatt for an explanation of specific regulations that mention the “Old Nags Head” architectural style that is required of new commercial structures. Wyatt notes there are opportunities to clarify that standards, while Cahoon said it gives a chance for codifying the standard.
Wyatt presents several bullet points to commissioners on some further amendment:
Wyatt also addressed a specific concern with Nags Head Cafe, which is a combined commercial/residential situation that will need to be addressed.
Commissioner Kevin Brinkley complimented Wyatt and the staff on their work on the amendments, while noting that the requirement of special use permits on existing businesses was of special concern.
Wyatt shows the board a new draft amendment to the ordinance that would allow all structures, including non-conforming, to be replaced within its footprint and that it cannot increase the degree of non-conformity prior to adoption of the new C-5 district.
Parking, stormwater management, landscaping, etc. changes would be allowed, even for non-conforming structures, as long as they meet other current requirements.
Wyatt is wrapping up her presentation, and notes that some of the requirements of notification on the changes were met. That includes the hearing date and info published for a certain length of time, effected property owners notified by letter and posting of signs along the roadway.
Commissioner Bob Sanders asked how many businesses would be impacted. Wyatt says two uses are not permitted without a special use, includes shopping centers. That would impact Jockey’s Ridge Crossing and Surfside Plaza.
Two gas stations, 7-11 and Duck Thru, would also be non-conforming, Wyatt said.
Since the proposal was drafted, Wyatt said the planning staff noted some things that will need to be amended further.
Wyatt is showing a new map of the current and proposed zoning that includes labeling of various businesses in the district.
Wyatt notes that in going through the current zoning regulations for C2 districts, they found one segment regarding Pet Shops which required a clarifying amendment. That drew a few chuckles from the audience.
She also went through some of the amendments for the C-5 “Historic Character District” that will limit new commercial structures, without a special use permit, on the Beach Road (N.C. 12) can’t exceed 3,500 square feet, and on the Bypass (U.S. 158) to 10,000 square feet.
“This has been a large undertaking by our staff…and we know its not perfect,” Wyatt said. Some of the push back has come from the existing businesses in the district that say they will have acquire special use permits from the town to remain in business.
Only one person spoke during the regular public comment. The board is approving its consent agenda, and is now moving into the public hearing.
Town Planning Director Kelly Wyatt is now formally presenting the proposed changes.
The public comment session is now ready to begin. Town Attorney John Leidy reminds those who are here to comment on the zoning change to hold their comments until the public hearing. Comments are limited to 5 minutes each.
Around 75 people have packed the Nags Head Board Room. It’s believed to be the largest crowd to attend a commissioners meeting since debate on regulating the number of bedrooms in homes in 2015. The eight-bedroom limit was ultimately overturned by state law.
A public comment session will take place before the hearing. With the large crowd in attendance, it is expected the public comments will run quite long.
Mayor Ben Cahoon calls the meeting to order. Click here to view today’s agenda.
The meeting is still 15 minutes away, but it is already standing room-only in the town’s Board Room.
Get caught up on this story through the links below:
Request made to Nags Head for delay of public hearing on Historic Cottage Row zoning changes