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Nags Head Planning Board continues to refine lighting regulations, changes to UDO regarding nonconforming hotels

By Summer Stevens

The Nags Head Planning Board continued discussion to answer the question, “are some commercial signs excessively illuminated?” and if so, what regulations need to be established to protect the town’s policy goals and their longstanding commitment to a dark sky community.

In the February 16 monthly meeting, the board questioned regulations for roof signs, parking lot lighting, maximum kelvin for LED lamps and the necessity for lighting past business hours. The board moved to approve the text amendments to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) proposed by Michael Zehner, director of planning and development. The board is developing regulations based on a request from the Board of Commissioners about concern over excessively bright parking lot lighting and wall signage.

Next, the board revisited the text amendments to the UDO pertaining to nonconforming hotels. The Board of Commissioners sent the proposed amendments back to the Planning Board to clarify language and establish requirements that were more consistent with those formerly applicable in the CR zoning district before commissioners vote on the text amendment March 3.

Hotels classified as nonconforming are requesting to remodel or enlarge their buildings, but are running into difficulty because of regulations. Commissioners are attempting to enable conditional use permits for needed updates, but what kind of updates to allow is bringing disagreement. “I don’t want our beach to look like Virginia Beach or Myrtle Beach,” said Planning Board member Gary Ferguson. “We’d like to see a variety of accommodations.”

According to Ferguson, two main issues are driving the exclusion of hotels from the oceanfront: the character or the town and resiliency (potential damage due to storms or hurricanes). “As long as they’re not increasing in the degree of nonconformity, I don’t see any problem with allowing them to expand,” Ferguson said.

After discussing specific changes to the UDO, the Planning Board made a motion to approve the CR standards. It passed unanimously.

The meeting concluded with an update from Zehner on plans and projects for 2021.

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