Kill Devil Hills Board of Commissioners, Planning Board meet together to begin addressing housing shortage

Published 7:53 am Wednesday, October 26, 2022

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By Judy Stiles

The Kill Devil Hills Board of Commissioners and Planning Board met Tuesday, Oct. 18 for a joint work session to consider planning department staff proposals for long-term housing in Kill Devil Hills. Kill Devil Hills Mayor Ben Sproul called the meeting to order and the group discussed how to move forward with finding a path to increase available long-term housing. Planning Board member Natalie Painter was absent from the meeting.

Assistant planning director Cameron Ray presented the following regulatory changes for consideration:

  • Revise existing workforce housing ordinance to remove income requirements to allow for flexibility for year-round housing.
  • Lessen regulations for duplex dwellings in residential zones.
  • Lessen setbacks for mixed-use development in the light industrial zone to match amendments made to the commercial zone.
  • Allow accessory dwelling unit (ADU), a second housing unit on a single-family lot, in all zoning districts including residential low and residential high.
  • Incentivize mixed-use development with zoning concession for long-term development, including requiring no additional parking for residential uses.
  • Prohibit short-term rentals in specific zoning districts, therefore mandating long-term housing by zoning district.
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Ray also presented the following incentive-based recommendations for consideration:

  • Create grant funding for owners’ voluntary conversion from short to long-term housing with restricted covenants for a limited time.
  • File a local bill in North Carolina House and Senate to allow tax reductions for long-term housing to monetarily incentivize those properties that convert to long-term housing.

There were nods of agreement around the table when Sproul outlined that while there are a lot of jobs in Kill Devil Hills, housing for employees is limited. Employees are driving long distances to work and cannot find housing in Kill Devil Hills. Sproul said that long-term housing is a consistent hot topic in the weekly meeting with mayors from other jurisdictions.

Following discussion of the planning staff members’ proposed suggestions, Sproul invited planning board members and commissioners to provide their reactions to the suggestions to increase long-term housing opportunities.

Commissioner B.J. McAvoy reminded the group they are Kill Devil Hills and not the beach and added it is not the group’s responsibility to resolve the housing situation for the whole area.

Several group members discussed the septic requirements and possibilities of reducing regulations. Ray clarified that the septic controls are set by the state health department to ensure public health. These restrictions cannot be relaxed by Kill Devil Hills elected officials. Additionally, Ray included that the transition to a town-wide septic system would cost billions of dollars.

Several group members brought up that being a short-term housing host is easier than being a long-term rental landlord. More often than not, the rental income is higher than long-term rentals. Ray stated that short-term housing is necessary and provides for the primary industry in Kill Devil Hills: tourism. Creating a too-restrictive stance on short term housing could be detrimental to the economy.

Mayor Pro Tem Ivy Ingram suggested looking to help people who rent long-term and wondered if regulations could be modified to ease owner burdens, such as how to evict someone who does not pay their rent. She recommended working with legislators to address concerns at a state level.

Multiple group members agreed that good priority items for further development and consideration over the next several months include: incentives that do not increase taxes; lessening restrictions on parking; lessening restrictions on multi-housing units to allow building upward; and looking at adding housing on top of commercial buildings.

Planning department staff were directed to continue studying options.



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