Yesterday, in discussing ZTA 18-09PB01, the latest proposed amendment to the nonconforming lots ordinance enacted by the Town Council last September, The Beacon wrote the following:
“If the Planning Board recommends allowing three sisters to divide a 150-foot-wide oceanfront parcel owned by their father, a multimillionaire real estate investor and developer who died without a will, The Beacon believes it would be contravening both the letter and intent of the Town Code sec. 36-132 that was in effect when the patriarch owned all three. Owning nearly $13 million in real estate, and much more in stocks and other assets, according to the estate inventory, the deceased father-property owner would have been well-advised to plan his estate and write a will.”
Upon further research, The Beacon has learned that the deceased father owned only two of the three 50-foot-wide lots at 76 Ocean Blvd., and his widow owned the third. He owned the northernmost and southernmost lots, and she owned the lot in the middle, such that the decedent’s two lots were not adjacent.
The Beacon regrets this error. Mea culpa for writing under time pressure on a Sunday afternoon.
The Dare County Register of Deeds records show that the three 50-foot-wide lots were acquired by husband and wife on June 6, 2001 from three different individuals, who, until they altered ownership two weeks before the sale, had owned them together.
According to the subject deeds, each of these lots was owned jointly by three unmarried persons who did not share a common surname, but shared a home address. They may have been siblings. One of their signatures on the deeds shows signs of age, so they may have been a mother and her two children.
(The Beacon does not have the time to go to the Register of Deeds Office in Manteo to research old deeds that are not online in an effort to try to establish their likely familial relationships. Online deeds only date to 1999.)
On May 21, 2001, the three jointly transferred ownership to the three 50-foot-wide lots so that each ended up owning only one. Each then sold his or her lot to either the decedent or his wife. The law firm of Vandeventer Black made all of this happen for the parties involved. The same firm assisted the decedent’s widow with administering his large estate.
The decedent was a longtime real estate investor and developer. He was a player on the Outer Banks.
Although the decedent and his wife apparently did not violate the letter of Town Code sec. 36-132, The Beacon still believes they contravened the spirit and intent of the law, as did their predecessors in ownership. If their three daughters, who each now own one of the 50-foot-wide lots, are given an exception to the new sec. 36-132, this contravention will continue.
If the sisters are allowed to sell their lots, individually, and their buyers develop them, or they develop them themselves, there will not be low-density development along this 150-foot-wide section of the oceanfront, and both the intent of the law and the vision of Southern Shores will be thwarted. This should not happen.
It is fair to say that “shenanigans” accompanied more than a few of the real estate transactions in Southern Shores. Deals were made informally, and lawyers have always known how to skirt the law, especially when it’s not tightly written.
The Beacon asks the Town Planning Board to delve into the facts behind those transactions that it would give an exemption to Town Code regulation and ensure that it is perpetuating fairness, not just enabling shenanigans that benefit the few and harm the many. The Board should protect the town, especially the oceanfront, and its land-use plan from further degradation.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/17/19