Currituck County to allow new campgrounds under certain conditions

Published 7:15 pm Saturday, February 19, 2022

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After 18 months of planning and discussion, Currituck commissioners passed an amendment to the Unified Development Ordinances (UDO) to allow new campgrounds in the county under certain conditions.

The county allowed campgrounds back in the early 1980s, but amendments to the UDO in 2013 made campgrounds a nonconforming use and could not be expanded. Planning staff members have been working since last year to consider language that would allow for new campgrounds. After several work sessions and input from the public and from commissioners, the county is taking what they’ve described as “baby steps” in allowing new campgrounds once again.

There are a lot of regulations for the new campgrounds. Campgrounds must be on a minimum of 50 acres, with a maximum of 500 campsites and must be more than five miles from another campground. Maximum density is 12 campsites per acre. They are only allowed in areas zoned Agricultural, Single Family Medium, SFI (Knotts Island) and General Business and need to be accessed from a major arterial street. The amendment makes it clear that campgrounds are not for year-round residents – only the owner or a full-time employee and family may live at the campground all year, and the camp must designate a 30-day period each year when it will be closed.

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Campgrounds can allow a variety of campsites, including recreational vehicles, tents, camping cabins and alternative camping units, though no more than 20% of campsites can contain camping cabins or alternative camping units.

On January 11, the planning board recommended adjusting some of the requirements, like removing the five mile distance between campgrounds; reducing the minimum parcel size from 50 acres down to 15 and taking out the percentage limitations on camping cabins. They also recommended increasing the number days the campground must be closed from 30 to 60, and reducing the maximum number of campsites from 500 to 250.

One community member, Jeff Foster, spoke during the public hearing to request that the board reconsider the 50-acre minimum requirement and the five mile distance between campgrounds requirement. Foster had planned to open a campground on 20 acres.

Commissioner Selina Jarvis would not budge on the matter, citing her constituents’ desire in Lower Currituck to keep the regulations in place. “The area that is going to be developed for campgrounds is my home. That’s where I live, and that’s where I represent – Lower Currituck south of Grandy – and no one that I’ve talked to from homeowners associations to citizens on the street to people at church – nobody wants a vision where every parcel along that highway, 15, 20 acres whatever, is going to be developed as campgrounds whether they’re high end [campgrounds] or not. There’s an environmental impact of campgrounds and I think this is us proceeding cautiously. I think we weighed into it to see what this look like, how it impacts our county with traffic, with the environment. There’s a lot to consider.”

To Foster, Jarvis said, “And that doesn’t mean this is forever, that doesn’t mean that your dream is not going to be developed, but this is our way of taking about 18 months to be cautious to allow this again in our county.”

Commissioners passed the amendment as presented, without the recommended changes from the planning board.