Kitty Hawk looks at drafted land use plan update; affordable housing hot topic

Published 7:07 am Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A special meeting was called to order February 7 at 2 p.m. by the Kitty Hawk Planning Board at town hall. The board met with Jay McLeod, project manager of Stewart, Inc. to review and discuss the comprehensive land use plan update prior to a public open house regarding the matter, which took place at 5 p.m.

Kitty Hawk’s previous land use plan update was conducted 20 years ago. In the draft presented by McLeod, CAMA land use management goals are broken down in the following categories: public access, land use compatibility, infrastructure carrying capacity, natural hazard areas and water quality. Local issues of concern were also included, such as updating design standards, building efficient transportation networks, encouraging affordable and workforce housing, increasing infrastructure resiliency and enhancing community-building experiences.

The steering committee (planning board) reviewed the town survey results first, which was sent out to member of the community regarding the topics the land use plan update focuses on. McLeod was happy to report that a large majority of the 276 responses received consisted of people who owned property within the town and full-time residents.

Get the latest headlines sent to you

The survey results showed that the top challenge responders hoped the new plan would address is affordable housing, followed by public infrastructure and service and storm resiliency. During the afternoon meeting, McLeod shared that a possible solution to the affordable housing issue would be separate short-term rentals from long-term residential areas. “You can regulate short-term rentals through zoning,” he mentioned, “some places chose to do that around the state, but it’s never an easy conversation because it’s tied so closely to the economy.”

Town councilwoman Charlotte Walker expressed her concerns regarding short-term rentals: “I really think they should be charged extra to have an Airbnb because it’s more work on the police department, more work on public works, more work on everybody.” McLeod piggy-backed off of her point, noting that Airbnbs and VRBOs are commercial operations: “It’s commercial housing, it’s just like a hotel essentially … it’s just different lengths of stay.” He added, “And to some extent that does change the residential character of where they move into.”

During the open house, former mayor of Kitty Hawk Gary Perry touched on the same topic in asking the gathered attendees their thoughts on the survey results, and whether they agreed or disagreed with the top topic of concern. “I agree,” one woman spoke up, “Of course housing is very important … it hits close to home for everybody.” Another gentleman agreed, “Those were my top three,” he said of the top town challenges.

Another hot topic of discussion addressed during the midday planning board meeting was evaluating the long-term viability of vulnerable roadways and neighborhoods in high hazard areas. The planned work on the Alligator River Bridge was brought up, in terms of its longevity given sea level rise and the impacts it has already faced due to the nature of its environment.

land use plan

The community survey results from the Kitty Hawk land use plan update showed that affordable housing is the most important issue the town will face in the coming years. Courtesy Stewart Inc.

“Those roads, there they could be under water real easy,” remarked board member Jim Geraghty. Impacts to the bridges surrounding Dare County have the potential to hinder economic growth throughout the Outer Banks communities. McLeod shared that the Department of Transportation (DOT) looks 20 years out when planning road improvements. “Clearly I would say that’s not the best we can do.” Where his team is not in a position to address DOT’s plans, McLeod said town representatives should have a voice in such decisions. You’re going to need to start the conversation, it’s going to have to happen from the ground up.”

At the open house, public parking and added pedestrian/cyclist facilities came to the forefront of the conversation. “We’ve heard loud and clear that people wanted more pedestrian and cycling facilities that are safe,” McLeod said. Mayor Craig Garriss ensured that the town is “still looking for more parking,” currently trying to work with the federal government on the matter. Town manager Melody Clopton shared that town representatives had recently met with NCDOT to discuss a feasibility study in the works, which would address pedestrian connectivity from where the Walmart shopping center is located south through the town.

At this time, the Kitty Hawk land use plan is in its information sharing phase. McLeod is hopeful that it will reach state review by late summer/early fall of this year. For more information on the land use plan, visit the town website at