Kill Devil Hills mayor proposes zoning map change to enable potential teacher housing expansion

Published 9:43 am Saturday, November 20, 2021

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Mayor Ben Sproul proposed a zoning map amendment that would enable the Dare Education Foundation (DEF), if so desired, to expand teacher housing in Kill Devil Hills. The property being considered is located in the Residential Low Zoning District, which currently does not allow multifamily housing. The amendment would rezone the property to Light Industrial Two, which does allow multifamily housing like apartments and townhomes. The amendment would also clean up some zoning lines that were adopted in the 1980s to make them more consistent with current uses.

The Town of Kill Devil Hills is not involved in the land or the project; the zoning map amendment simply allows for the possibility of expansion if DEF so chooses. Sproul’s proposal is step one; the amendment would need to go to the planning board, then return to the commissioners for a public hearing before changes would take place. But the town wants to be ready when and if DEF chooses to expand.

According to executive director Barbara Davidson, DEF is also considering teacher housing on Roanoke Island. “The current parcel where we have teacher housing [in KDH] was built to accommodate an additional building, but that’s not necessarily the avenue we’d pursue. There’s not necessarily a commitment to expand in Kill Devil Hills if we could expand on Roanoke Island.”

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Current teacher housing in Kill Devil Hills is located at Run Hill Ridge, 800 8th Avenue, with 24 units offering two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Buxton teacher housing has eight units. The apartments are rented approximately 50% below market value, according to Davidson. The lease is for four years and is not renewable. “Our facilities are meant as a recruitment,” said Davidson. “It’s not long-term housing. It’s to help people take a job here, land here and get settled.”

Though the expansion conversation is in the early stages, DEF is working with the Board of Education on potential next steps, including location options and number of units. “We are definitely not close to breaking ground on anything,” Davidson said.

But everyone involved agrees that teacher shortages and housing concerns must be addressed.

“We’re trying to make things affordable, and all of this aligns with what we want and need for the town as well as for the county. Some of the tough barriers to entry coming here from other places is the kind of sticker shock of the price of housing, as well as the lack of it, so to be able to land here with a place to stay that’s very affordable in your first year as a first-year teacher or a transferring teacher is super valuable,” said Sproul.

Next, commissioners approved a site plan review for 2029 S. Virginia Dare Trail for the purposes of reconstructing the oceanfront amenity area, including a snack bar and covered seating.

Sue Kelly with the Community Appearance Commission alerted the board about the community cleanup day scheduled for November 20 at 10 a.m. Volunteers will meet at Avalon Pier and work on clearing the walkway on Eden Street.

Commissioner Terry Gray reported on his meeting with the Southern Albemarle Association. “The hot topic was the [Lindsey C. Warren] Alligator River Bridge,” he said. “For evacuation purposes, it’s very, very valuable to us. Also for bringing commerce into the area.” According to Gray, the project currently is unfunded, though grants are being applied for to cover the estimated $212 million replacement cost.

Sproul wrote a resolution in support of replacing the bridge that “serves as the main transportation link along Highway 64 from areas west of Dare County . . . The draw-bridge infrastructure of the bridge is obsolete and was closed for repairs in 2017 and 2019, resulting in lengthy delays and detours for residents, visitors, and commerce to Dare, Currituck, Hyde and Tyrrell Counties” and “is an essential hurricane evacuation route . . . and the functionality of the bridge is imperative to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors.”

The mayor’s second resolution reaffirmed the board’s continued opposition to offshore drilling, seismic testing and leasing, due to the significant impact a potential spill could have on the environmental and economic interests of the area, such as Huntington Beach experienced earlier this year.

Next, Gray proposed to the board extending the mayor’s term from two years to four years, effective after current Sproul has already run for re-election. “I don’t want anyone to feel like this is an initiative to benefit our current mayor because it is not . . . I think it would be a good thing for the town, and a good thing in the [mayor’s] seat.”

Commissioner Ivy Ingram agreed: “For turnover and training, two years is over very quickly.” Additionally, board members agreed that a mayoral election every four years would save the town money on election costs.

Town manager Debbie Diaz said she can get the ball rolling and put the item on the agenda at the next meeting as a resolution of intent to start the process. There are five meetings that must take place before the town charter could be amended to reflect the term change, during which time residents have ample opportunity to express their opinions.