At 134 Ocean Blvd., footprints lead to Higgins’ Haven, a picturesque part of the Southern Shores oceanfront for 60 years, now destined for SAGA’s wrecking crew.


The 5,945-square-foot house that SAGA Construction proposes to build at 134 Ocean Blvd., on the Southern Shores oceanfront, is virtually identical to the 5,981-square-foot house it proposes to construct at 98 Ocean Blvd., after demolishing an original Frank Stick-designed flattop, The Beacon has confirmed. The demolition at 134 would be of “Higgins’ Haven,” a modified flattop that was #014 in Southern Shores Realty’s rental program this year.

According to documents submitted by SAGA for its CAMA minor permit, the house proposed at 134 Ocean Blvd., which is just south of the Duck Road split, would have 12 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms in “suites,” a 14-seat home theater, an elevator, a swimming pool, hot tub, tiki bar, large game/recreation room, and interior bar. It also would have 11 parking spaces on the driveway and six spaces underneath the house and septic capacity for 24 people.

The Dare County Dept. of Public Health Improvement Permit in the Town Planning Dept’s. file for 134, which issued Oct. 4, shows a septic tank size of 2,500 gallons and a per-day capacity of 1,440 gallons. It also shows seller Clay E. Higgins, in his capacity as a trustee, as the property owner, not SAGA.

According to the purchase offer and acceptance on file, settlement on the 134 sale was to occur Sept. 28. Property owners Mr. Higgins and his wife, Franca B. Higgins, also a trustee, live in Harbinger.

Comparable paperwork for 98 Ocean Blvd. shows a 3,500-gallon septic tank and a 1,440-gallon-per-day capacity, and SAGA as the property owner. That permit issued Oct. 2.

Although the parking lot and swimming pool layouts at 134 differ from those at 98, the house designs are essentially the same. The architect for both is Community Planning and Architectural Associates (CPAA) of Kitty Hawk. Judging by CPAA’s plans, the bedrooms appear to be about 13-feet-by-11-feet, and their layout suggests a dormitory.

MY OPINION: This is cookie-cutter construction and development, which is SAGA’s goal. One need only look at the Nags Head oceanfront to see one identical, indistinguishable SAGA mega-house after another on the oceanfront.

For background on SAGA’s proposed projects in Southern Shores, see The Beacon’s blogs on 10/10, 10/11, and 10/16/18.


Here are the numbers that SAGA provides in its building plans for lot-coverage purposes:

Proposed residence: 3,900 sq. ft.

Concrete parking and drives: 4,284 sq. ft.

Pool and concrete decks: 2,079 sq. ft.

Wood beach walkway and deck: 344 sq. ft.

The total coverage adds up to 10,607 sq. ft.

SAGA claims a lot area to the first line of stable natural vegetation (FLSNV) of 36,925 sq. ft., and, therefore, lot coverage of 28.7 percent. The Town limits lot coverage to 30 percent.

Elsewhere in its documentation, SAGA reports a lot size of 46,702 sq. ft., or 1.07 acres.

SAGA’s numbers for “enclosed living space” for purposes of calculating house size are as follows:

Ground level: 301 sq. ft.

First floor:  2,822 sq. ft. (enclosed); 865 sq. ft. deck area

Second floor: 2,822 sq. ft. (enclosed): 865 sq. ft. deck area (Notice the identical floors.)

The total enclosed area adds up to 5,945 sq. ft., and the deck area is 1,730 sq. ft.

In addition, SAGA’s plans show an unenclosed area below the enclosed area of 2,517 sq. ft., where six vehicles can be parked.

The maximum house size permitted by ordinance in Southern Shores is 6,000 square feet of enclosed living space, which is further defined as habitable space. In its plans for 98 Ocean Blvd., SAGA exempts from its size calculation a 124-square-foot, “unconditioned” enclosed space that serves as a storage area.

I have to wonder if such an exemption should be allowed by the Town. A 124-square-foot space easily could be converted into a thirteenth bedroom. I am aware of a permitted garage addition to a house on North Dogwood Trail that, despite being done after the 6,000-square-foot maximum went effect, brought the total size of the house to over 6,000 square feet. Why wasn’t this violation prevented?

As previously reported, the adjacent property owners to the north of 134 Ocean Blvd. have objected to SAGA’s project. They live in Emporia, Va. The Southern Shores Civic Assn., which owns a beach access that adjoins the property to the south, filed its written objection yesterday.

The CAMA permit for 98 Ocean Blvd. could issue any day. When it does, the SSCA will receive notification and instructions on the appeal process for the denial of its objection.


I am hearing from property owners that they object to the timing of the special meeting to consider occupancy limits for single-family dwellings in Southern Shores, scheduled by the Town at 10 a.m. on Wed., Nov. 7, in the Pitts Center. I agree with these property owners’ concerns.

A morning week-day meeting excludes property owners who work daytime hours, both inside and outside the home, residents say. In addition, scheduling the meeting on the same day as the Town Council’s regular evening meeting—which will be unusually agenda-heavy because the Town Council voted, 3-2, to cancel its October meeting—AND on the day after national midterm elections, is unduly burdensome.

How many members of the public will be inclined to attend both meetings? And aren’t public meetings for the benefit of the public? The public is entitled to a realistic opportunity to be heard.

Mayor Tom Bennett is responsible for the scheduling of the Nov. 7 morning meeting. Any objections by Town Council members to this scheduling have not been persuasive. You may reach Mayor Bennett at tbennett@southernshores-nc.gov.

I am also hearing residents criticize the Town Council, which has made no public statement since the SSCA announced SAGA’s 98 Ocean Blvd. plans, at its Oct. 8 meeting, as a “do-nothing” Council. In fact, I heard that term just this morning when I was out walking my dog. This particular resident and fellow dogwalker, whom I do not know personally, said “do nothing” is what she has come to expect of this Town Council in terms of limiting development.

I do not believe it is correct or fair to impute the Mayor’s reasoning and actions to any Town Council members. It is the Mayor who decided the date and time of the special meeting, not the Town Council. And it is the Mayor who could change the date and time, if he chose to do so.


Contrary to what I reported on Tuesday the Duck Planning Board did not hold a meeting last night. Mea culpa. I misread the Town of Duck’s calendar on its website. In fact, the Duck Planning Board met on Oct. 10 and will next meet on Nov. 14. Duck is also grappling with how to limit occupancy in “single-family” dwellings.

My trip to Duck last evening was not wasted, however, because I met and chatted with a longtime Dare County resident who showed up at the town meeting hall because he had seen my post about a Planning Board meeting. I will not name him because I did not inform him that we were “on the record,” and I have no desire to ambush people!

This gentleman, whom I’ll call Mac, is of the opinion that the Senate Bill 25 amendments to N.C. General Statute 160A-381, which took effect in 2015, prohibit towns from regulating septic capacity. Mac referred to the following language in the law for his argument:

“Regulations prohibited by [160A-381(h)] may not be applied, directly or indirectly, in any zoning district . . . unless voluntarily consented to by the owners of all the property to which those regulations may be applied . . . ”

Mac believes a limit on the septic capacity of single-family dwellings would be an “indirect” application of a regulation on the number of bedrooms. He asserts that this is what the N.C. General Assembly intended.

NCGS 160A-381(h) lists those building-design elements that counties and towns cannot regulate, and one of them is “the number and types of rooms.” Hence, the invalidation of the seven-bedroom restriction in Southern Shores.

When I practiced law in Maryland, I did a fair number of “statutory-construction” cases on appeal, where the question was: What does the state statute mean?

It is not unusual for state legislatures to approve unclear or ambiguous statutory language or language that is subject to multiple interpretations. The overriding legal principle that I applied in my analyses was “the plain meaning of the language.” What does the statute plainly mean, on its face? One shouldn’t have to delve into legislative history in order to discern what words are supposed to mean, although where several meanings are reasonably possible, legislative intent may come into play.

I argued with Mac that the plain meaning of the word “indirectly” did not support his interpretation, and that a court would have to render the definitive judgment in a legal dispute. IMO, it requires a contortion of words to arrive at Mac’s interpretation, despite what legislators might have said in committee hearings or elsewhere.

If the General Assembly wanted to prohibit regulations restricting septic capacity, it should have clearly said so.

EARLY VOTING IN THE NOV. 6 GENERAL ELECTION STARTED YESTERDAY. I will post my analysis of judicial candidates and the proposed constitutional amendments by the weekend, at the latest.

REMEMBER: The Pitts Center is not a polling station for early voting, aka one-stop absentee voting, in this election. The polling stations are as follows:

DARE COUNTY ADMIN. BLDG., 954 Marshall C. Collins Drive, Manteo

KDH TOWN HALL, 102 Town Hall Drive, KDH


For more election details, see The Beacon’s 9/26/18 post.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/18/18


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