VIDEO: Dare commissioners approve Wanchese cluster home development, set public hearing for limiting further proposals

VIDEO: Dare commissioners approve Wanchese cluster home development, set public hearing for limiting further proposals

May 1st, 2023

UPDATED, Tuesday 9:30 p.m.: The Dare County Board of Commissioners on Monday voted to approve a special use permit that will allow the construction of a cluster home neighborhood in Wanchese.

The board also set a public hearing for May 17 on a proposed limit of future similar developments in unincorporated areas of the county.

A quasi-judicial hearing was held last month on a special use permit for The Villages at Old Wharf Road.

Brad Alexander of Aria Construction submitted the proposal to construct 60 two- and three-bedroom units, ranging from 960 to 1,120 square feet, on a 10.53 acre parcel at the intersection of Old Wharf and Pugh roads.

The hearing included testimony from Brad Alexander and the engineers who helped design the project, following more than two hours of public comment where only two people spoke in favor.

A request by Dare County for a traffic study and other data that was submitted during the meeting led commissioners to recess the hearing ahead of their deliberations.

The hearing on the special use permit resumed during Monday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, after more than an hour of public comment. All but one of those speaking expressed their continued opposition to the proposal.

Commissioner Ervin Bateman had to recuse himself from the hearing because he had discussed the proposal publicly.

Commissioner Jim Tobin, who has been undergoing aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatment for cancer and participated in the meeting by telephone and was not been able to take part in the hearing held in April, was subsequently not allowed to vote or speak during the continued hearing on Monday.

Those eligible to participate, Chairman Bob Woodard, Vice Chair Wally Overman, and members Rob Ross, Steve House and Danny Couch, voted unanimously to approve the special use permit.

All noted that the application met every requirement of the county’s Cluster Home Ordinance, and they legally had no choice but to vote affirmative.

Proposal to change Cluster Home Ordinance

The Board of Commissioners in March requested that the Planning Board revisit the Cluster Home Ordinance for possible revisions, and removal of districts from the ordinance in response to The Villages at Old Wharf Road proposal.

The Cluster Home Ordinance originally came out of 2018 request by the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce to help address the shortage of essential worker housing.

Amendments to the zoning regulations to allow cluster homes went through several public hearings during commissioners meetings, and was eventually approved in 2018 and 2019 in 34 districts.

It allows for the construction of more than one single family dwelling on an individual parcel. Since being approved, five cluster home developments have been approved in unincorporated Dare County, according to Planning Director Noah Gillam.

Last month, the Planning Board voted unanimously to recommend removing the Cluster Home Ordinance from all residential districts in unincorporated Dare County that do not allow for multi-family developments.

The Planning Board determined during their discussions that the current ordinance allowed for a level of density and scale in traditionally single family districts that was not consistent with the intent of those districts, according to Gillam.

“Although cluster homes are single family dwellings the ability of developers to use engineered spetic systems allows the density of these developments to be more reflective of the density that is allowed in districts that allow for multi-family development,” Gillam said in a memo to the Board of Commissioners.

Under the proposal, the Cluster Home Ordinance would be removed from 22 zoning districts, and remain in 12 (click to view map of those districts).

The motion to hold the meeting on May 17 was updated in the night’s final order of business, and the meeting will be scheduled for 5 p.m. to allow the public a better opportunity to participate.

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