Essential housing remains a hot topic, appeal filed for Nags Head project

Published 11:48 am Monday, December 5, 2022

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“I cannot think of another more pressing issue we face at this time in the county than essential housing,” said Robert L. Woodard, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners.

Woodard said that he and other board members were contacted daily via emails and phone calls, as well as in public about the county’s workforce housing shortage.

Since at least 2018, Dare’s commissioners have had essential housing shortage on their public agenda.

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Currently, Coastal Affordable Housing LLC continues to look for sites while Woda Cooper Companies is planning for sites in Manteo and Nags Head. Woda Cooper has a memorandum of agreement with Dare County. Coastal Affordable Housing has a pre-development agreement with Dare County.

“Make no mistake,” said Woodard at the commissioners meeting Nov. 7, 2022, “we are 100% committed to making this happen and we will not give up until it’s completed. Essential housing is a must in Dare County.”

In his speech, Woodard delved into frequent questions and common myths about essential housing. One by one, Woodard debunked myths, such as property values decreasing; that housing looks cheap and undesirable, hurts quality of schools, is a burden on taxpayers and municipalities, brings increased crime, increases traffic, strains public services and infrastructure and doesn’t fit the character of the neighborhood.

“Despite these myths, the truth is that helping your fellow man helps the community as a whole,” said Woodard.

He then tackled the “not in my backyard” mindset, or NIMBY. Woodard said “opposition to essential housing projects based on stereotypes or prejudice towards people who will live in them can be a violation of people’s rights to be free from discrimination in housing, which means it can be against the law. In all due respect, the bottom line is we do not have the right to choose who our neighbors are.”

Woda Cooper Companies, of Columbus, Ohio, has proposed developing 54 units of multi-family housing on 4.7-acre vacant parcel known as the Nags Head site at 100 Hollowell St. in Nags Head. The second parcel to be developed by Woda Cooper is referred to as the Bowsertown Road property in Manteo.

At a hearing in Nags Head, Denis Blackburne, senior vice president – development, testified at that the development is privately-owned and not public housing. As described, the housing units would be in three buildings, with handicapped units available and parking contained on site.

Woda Cooper will leverage county funds by qualifying for a North Carolina Housing Finance Agency 4% Low Income Housing Tax Credit tax-exempt bond.

Overall, the Woda-Dare County agreement calls for a mix of 24 one-bedroom units, 66 two-bedroom units and 10 three-bedroom units spread between the Nags Head and Manteo sites. The final mix will be determined in consultation with Dare County.

Blackburn reported that a preliminary plan had been submitted to Nags Head Planning Department for review before a Board of Commissioners moratorium was enacted.

On Oct. 19, 2022, Nags Head commissioners enacted a moratorium covering the C-2 zoning district for 150 days within the Historic Character Area between Hollowell and Danube streets.

The Nags Head ordinance says the moratorium lasts until March 17, 2023, with the Planning Board forwarding recommendations in time for a Board of Commissioners to schedule a public hearing March 1, 2023.

The ordinance adopted Oct. 19 states in Part III, “the following are exempted from the effect of this moratorium: (1) applications that meet the criteria provided under N.C.G.S. 160D-107(c); and (2) the development of residential uses.”

The first exemption deals with the issue of vested rights created by filing various documents related to a project prior to the implementation of the moratorium.

Blackburne reported that after the moratorium was filed, the planning department rejected the submitted Woda Cooper document.

Woda Cooper has appealed that decision to the Nags Head Board of Adjustment. A Board of Adjustment hearing is set for Jan. 12, 2023 at 9 a.m. in the Nags Head Board of Commissioners building. A decision by the Board of Adjustment may be appealed to the Superior Court.