2/22/19: STOPPING MINI-HOTELS: TWO PROPOSED ‘LARGE HOUSE’ ZONING TEXT AMENDMENTS ARE NOW ON TOWN WEBSITE, To Be Considered by Planning Board March 18

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The two proposed “large-house” zoning text amendments, whose content the Town Planning Board authorized in January, but could not consider at its Feb. 19 meeting—see yesterday’s blog—are now available on the Town website at:

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/?s=ZTA+19-01

ZTAs 19-01 and 19-01CUP are identical, except 19-01CUP allows for a conditional use permitted in the town’s low-density residential districts of a high-density vacation cottage. (More about that, below.)

The Beacon encourages you to read each of these ZTAs and to post your comments and opinions here or on The Beacon’s Facebook page.

The Planning Board seeks to control residential development in these proposed ZTAs through two means: 1) the use of the dwelling; and 2) maximum septic capacity.

The question is whether these means will, in fact, preserve low-density development in Southern Shores by preventing the construction of high-occupancy residences (mini-hotels), and, thus, protect the Town’s environment, character, and appeal and homeownersand vacationersquality of life.

You should have a voice in the decision-making. To do so, you have to read the fine print of these ZTAs.

It’s not that bad. Honestly.

Although each ZTA application has either six or seven pages, you only have to read and digest two pages: The language of each proposed amendment to the Town’s zoning chapter begins on page 4 of the ZTA application. In the case of ZTA 19-01, it continues to page 5; ZTA 19-01CUP carries a sentence over to page 6, but, it, too, is essentially two pages.

The first page of each ZTA is the cover to the application form, and the next two pages constitute a preamble setting forth the purpose and authority for the amendment. If the Town Council were to enact either of these ZTAs, its preamble would not become part of the Town Code of Ordinances, only the new underlined language in the ZTA would.

The Town zoning ordinance currently permits only one use in the RS-1 single-family residential district, which encompasses most of the town, including all of the areas that vacationers frequent, and the R-1 low-density residential district, and that is a single-family dwelling. Each of these ZTAs creates a new use known as vacation cottage, which it defines and limits by occupancy and septic capacity.

Vacation cottages, by definition, house transient occupants and may have no more than 14 overnight occupants. Their maximum septic capacity is also limited to 14 overnight occupants.

Transient occupancy is defined in the ZTAs as an overnight occupancy for less than 30 days by person or persons who have a place of residence elsewhere to which they intend to return. Both ZTAs specify that vacation cottages may be rented or used by the day, week, or other period of less than thirty (30) days.

DOES ZTA 19-01CUP ABROGATE ZTA 19-01?

The Planning Board discussed, but never expressly approved, the language included in ZTA 19-01CUP about a high-density vacation cottage, which it defines as a residential structure that is:

“(i) advertised to accommodate, designed or constructed with a maximum overnight occupant capacity of more than 14 persons, or (ii) having a maximum septic capacity sufficient to serve more than fourteen (14) overnight occupants.

While it would appear that this language overrules ZTA 19-01, by permitting exactly what Southern Shores property owners would like to prohibit, ZTA 19-01CUP also requires high-density vacation cottages to be built on lots that are a minimum of 175,000 square feet.

The Beacon does not like either the concept or the allowance of high-density vacation cottages in low-density residential districts. ZTA 19-01CUP represents a Pandora’s box that should remain closed.

The intent behind the establishment of the RS-1 residential district is clearly stated in Town Code sec. 36-202(a), which appears in each ZTA: It is to provide for the low-density development of single-family detached dwellings in an environment which preserves sand dunes, coastal forests, wetlands, and other unique natural features of the coastal area.

No development described as “high-density,” regardless of the minimum lot size, should be permitted in this district.

Please let The Beacon know what you think.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 2/22/19

4 thoughts on “2/22/19: STOPPING MINI-HOTELS: TWO PROPOSED ‘LARGE HOUSE’ ZONING TEXT AMENDMENTS ARE NOW ON TOWN WEBSITE, To Be Considered by Planning Board March 18

  1. As a resident and voter for 25 years in Southern Shores, I’m appalled that the Town Council is even remotely considering the concept of allowing high-density vacation cottages in low-density residential districts which will surely destroy the unique character of the town which we have come to appreciate.

    The primary reason for our choice of living in the unique environment provided by Southern Shores instead of Manteo, Nags Head, Kitty Hawk or Kill Devil Hills is articulated perfectly in Town Code sec. 36-202(a), the purpose of which is to“provide for the low-density development of single-family detached dwellings in an environment which preserves sand dunes, coastal forests, wetlands, and other unique natural features of the coastal area.”

    I was dismayed to see the Hilton go up behind Handy Hugo’s fearing that the construction of the hotel would be the camel’s nose under the tent in that a seemingly innocuous act or decision would lead to much larger, more serious, and less desirable consequences down the line and it seems like I was right. Is this the beginning of the end of the Southern Shores we all know and love…?

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  2. Anna , Please remember your lawyer we’re not how about a summary in layman’s terms when you Post these things, then we can dig in to the details. Otherwise I think you’re losing your audience. Thank you for your time and information and efforts.

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    1. Sorry! I was trying to do that, but I can take another stab at it. I am cautious about paraphrasing proposed ordinances and statutes because legal language is so precise. Every comma and semi-colon make a difference. As does an “or” or an “and.” The intent of this zoning change is to restrict the occupancy and septic capacity of “vacation cottages” to 14 overnight occupants. I admit I am uneasy about differentiating for the first time in the zoning code between single-family dwellings and vacation cottages, which accommodate transients. The way I read the ZTAs is that a property owner can still build a single-family dwelling that has an occupancy and septic capacity of more than 14 persons, provided it’s not used as a vacation cottage. Mini-hotels, therefore, can still be built, provided they are rented for more than 30 days by their occupants. Realistically, a 30-day-plus rental may not be a desirable option for people, but it is an exemption to the ZTAs’ coverage, nonetheless. Of course, no house in Southern Shores can be larger than 6,000 square feet, but as SAGA is showing us at 98 and 134 Ocean Blvd., a 6,000-square-foot structure can house dozens of people; and the Town Council could always remove the size restriction. I’ll do some editing of my article tomorrow. Thank you.

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  3. Thank you for your comment. I attended all of the Planning Board meetings during which members discussed various options for restricting the occupancy of houses and maintaining the low-density character of development in Southern Shores. At no time did Board members endorse the concept of a high-density vacation cottage.

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