Nags Head considers rezoning, what it means for property owners

Published 7:15 am Monday, February 27, 2023

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Nags Head is holding a public hearing March 1 at 9 a.m. in the Board of Commissioners room at 5401 S. Croatan Highway to discuss the rezoning of a portion of the General Commercial (C-2) zone in the Historic Character Area, from Danube Street to Hollowell Avenue, between Hwy 158 and NC 12.

The planning department is recommending rezoning some properties to High-Density Residential (R-3), and others to the newly-created Historic Character Commercial (C-5).

General Commercial is the broadest zoning the town allows with the fewest restrictions. According to the town’s website explaining the zoning changes, Nags Head has determined that General Commercial designation is “not appropriate to protect the integrity of the Historic Character Area.”

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The new C-5 district, “focuses on uses smaller in scale, with less intense development, which is more consistent with the charm and character of the National Register Historic District, Jockey’s Ridge, and existing residential uses.”

This means that some commercial properties in this area may now be considered “nonconforming”—which means it was allowed when it was first developed, but some aspects of it would no longer be allowed.

“For instance,” said planning director Kelly Wyatt in an email to The Coastland Times on February 9, “should the amendments be approved, shopping centers would not be permitted in the C-5 District. The existing shopping centers can continue to operate with no issues or concerns but, we would not be able to permit a new shopping center in the C-5 District.”

So, there would be nonconforming “uses” (like a grocery store or a car wash), as well as nonconforming “structures” (Kitty Hawk Kites, for example, because its square footage is beyond the what the proposed C-5 district would allow).

A nonconforming use would not be allowed to expand. A nonconforming structure could be maintained and repaired, but it could not be expanded if the expansion increased the degree of nonconformity.

As for why a property was recommended for residential or commercial, Wyatt said, “Areas were recommended for R-3 or C-5 based upon existing development patterns. Areas that are primarily developed residentially were recommended for a residential designation. Areas that were primarily developed commercially were recommended for a commercial designation.”

As for empty lots, the planning department selected the zoning that seemed to be most consistent with the surrounding properties, Wyatt said.

The 4.7-acre parcel that had been considered for affordable and workforce housing is being slated for residential – though multi-family housing is no longer allowed. There are about 10 empty lots from Mulligan’s Restaurant south toward Dune Street that are selected for residential, as well as a one-acre parcel just north of the new Blue Moon Restaurant location.

People who own vacant property on Hwy 158 that is now being proposed for residential zoning may be facing a significant loss of property value if the board of commissioners approve the recommendations, according to Nags Head real estate broker Bobby Harrell.

In other words, property owners who purchased land in the General Commercial zone – which allows greater freedom of development and uses for businesses – and were holding it for a future investment may now be facing the possibility of only being allowed to develop the land for a single-family home or duplex.

And, according to Harrell in a February 5 email to The Coastland Times, “Single family residential on the bypass is always discounted due to location and traffic noise.”

Wyatt said in a phone interview on February 24 that if the amendments pass, property owners in the proposed R-3 zoning can still apply for a zoning change if they have a commercial use in mind.

At the March 1 meeting, commissioners have the option of approving amendments as presented, rejecting the amendments, or sending it back to the planning board for revisions.