SAGA Construction Inc. will argue today to the Dare County Planning Board why it should support changing longstanding county commercial zoning rules solely to allow it to build a six-story hotel, with a seventh-story “rooftop amenity,” and other commercial projects it has proposed on southern Hatteras Island.
According to local news reports, SAGA seeks to transform the two-story Sea Gull Motel, which was built in 1955 and hit hard by Hurricane Isabel in 2003, and adjacent property. (See http://www.seagullbuxton.us/.)
The seven-member Planning Board, which is chaired by at-large member John Finelli, who lives in Martin’s Point, will hear SAGA’s application to amend the county zoning ordinance pertaining to the C-2H general commercial district at 6 p.m. in the Board of Commissioners Meeting Room, 954 Marshall C. Collins Drive, in Manteo.
The Planning Board’s consideration of SAGA’s application is a review, not a public hearing. The Board has the option of conducting a public hearing on SAGA’s proposed amendment to Dare County’s commercial zoning regulations, and Dare Planning Director Donna Creef has recommended that it do so.
Like the Southern Shores Planning Board, which Mr. Finelli also sits on as an at-large member, the Dare County Planning Board is an advisory body only. It will decide whether or not to recommend SAGA’s proposed zoning text amendment, as is or with changes, to the Dare County Board of Commissioners, which will make the ultimate decision.
In a June 4, 2019 county memorandum, Ms. Creef stated that the “entire zoning amendment process takes a few months to complete.”
The Planning Board will take up SAGA’s application this evening after it holds a public hearing on zoning amendments to improve year-round housing prospects, according to the Board’s agenda. There will be a public-comment period offered at the beginning of the meeting, before this hearing, at which time you may speak.
WHAT DOES SAGA WANT?
The Beacon has done a fast study of what’s at stake here and strongly urges others to do their homework, especially if they plan to speak at the meeting. We will provide links to useful information at the bottom of this post.
You’ll find the Dare County Zoning Ordinance in Appendix A to Chapter 155 of the Dare County Code of Ordinances. Within Article II of Chapter 155 is a section specific to the C-2H general commercial district, designated 22-25.1. Within this section, is a listing of all currently approved uses, both permitted and conditional, of property in the C-2H general commercial district.
The C-2H general commercial district on Hatteras Island is located on either side of N.C. Hwy. 12, as this map shows: https://www.darenc.com/home/showdocument?id=480.
The current permitted uses of property within the C-2H general commercial district are broad, encompassing all manner of offices, retail stores, service establishments, single-family dwellings, schools, public buildings, etc. Hotels and motels are permitted, but they are qualified by dimensional requirements spelled out in section 22-25.1(d), which includes limitations on the number of stories in a building, its height, and its lot coverage.
The current conditional uses permitted in the C-2H general commercial district number far fewer. They include automobile service stations, seafood markets, boat building and boat repair facilities, and fishing piers. (See sec. 22-25.1(c).)
What SAGA proposes to do is to create a new permitted conditional use, called “mixed use development,” which as it defines and describes this use in its zoning text amendment, would allow it to do precisely what it wants to do. The new conditional use it suggests the county commissioners enact into law may as well be titled “The SAGA Use.”
What SAGA’s rather detailed amendment essentially says is that, all existing dimensional restrictions in the Dare County Zoning Ordinance on motels and hotels do not apply to its hotel in its mixed-used development, nor do any other zoning regulations, such as those for off-street parking, that it does not like. SAGA is exempt from the county’s zoning regs.
This is stark corporate bullying by a developer whose message is, if you, Dare County and Hatteras Island, want our investment dollars, you have to cater to us. We don’t care about your Zoning Ordinance. It doesn’t apply to us. We make our own rules.
SAGA’S ‘MIXED USE’ DEVELOPMENT
The Beacon finds the concept of a “mixed use development” ludicrous.
As SAGA defines it, this type of development is “a planned development consisting of mixed uses including those listed as permitted and/or conditional in the underlying district.” SAGA is reportedly considering a restaurant, a pier, and retail shops, in addition to a high-rise hotel.
But a so-called “mixed use” development is already permitted by the Zoning Ordinance, simply by its component parts. There is no logic behind creating an entity known as a “development.” Uses already may be mixed.
Of course, SAGA is proposing this fictitious entity, a “mixed-use development,” so that it can make its own rules about the number of stories that its hotel can have, the height its hotel can be, the amount of lot coverage its “development” can consume, and all the other zoning exceptions it wants.
Under the current dimensional requirements, no structure can have more than three “habitable” floors or stories, measured from the bottom of the floor joist to the top of the top plate. (See sec. 22-25.1(d)(6).)
SAGA would like to build a six-story hotel with a rooftop “amenity” that would be open and not “habitable,” in the sense that it’s not enclosed living space, so that guests presumably can drink and party at all hours while they gaze out over the ocean.
Under the current zoning requirements, the height of buildings in the C-2H zoning district is limited to a maximum of 45 feet, unless an “elective elevation option” is exercised, in which case the maximum height can be 52 feet. (See sec. 22-25.1(d)(6).)
SAGA’s amendment would allow the developer to build its hotel with six stories, plus the seventh-story roof-top functional space, and up to a maximum of 78 feet, if only the six stories are built, and 88 feet, if the seventh story is added.
SAGA also seeks a 70-percent lot coverage for all uses within its development, which is 10 percent more than the current zoning regulations would allow. (See sec. 22-25.1(d)(5).)
You will find SAGA’s application here: https://www.darenc.com/home/showdocument?id=5476.
The Planning Board’s agenda tonight is here: https://boc.darecountync.gov/board_minutes/planning/2019/2019_06_10Agenda.pdf.
If you click on this link, you will arrive at a page that you can use to get to Ch. 155, Art. II, Section 22-25.1, which is the section on the C-2H zoning district:
We in Southern Shores have become accustomed to seeing NO! MINI-HOTELS signs around town, protesting SAGA’s “minihotels” on our oceanfront. Hatteras Island locals may wish to consider a variation on our theme:
The Beacon knows how they can order signs.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/10/19