Planning board takes up cluster housing, approves Manns Harbor project

Published 11:47 am Wednesday, May 10, 2023

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On Tuesday, May 2, 2023, the Dare County Planning Board discussed possible changes to be made in the cluster housing ordinance and then approved a Manns Harbor project using the existing cluster housing rules.

On May 17, the Dare County Board of Commissioners will hold a hearing on a proposal from the Planning Board to eliminate the cluster housing ordinance from 22 zones. That leaves 12 zoning districts that still have the cluster housing ordinance in place.

Board member Terry Gore suggested that the issue with the existing ordinance was “scalability,” or density of units per acre. In the Wanchese case, the underlying zone permits six units per acre, which is the number in the now-approved project.

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Both Gore and Dare planning director Noah Gillam, in his memorandum to the board, suggested incorporating an “incremental density limitation dependent on parcel size” in the existing ordinance.

As explained, that might mean something like six units on a slightly larger-than-one-acre property, five on two acres, four on three acres, etc.

In addition to the density issue, Gillam listed other possible changes: increased setbacks and separation of dwellings; increase right-of-way widths; and an open space requirement free of improvements like wastewater systems and stormwater infrastructure.

The Planning Board will continue discussions on changes to the existing ordinance at its next meeting on June 13, 2023.

During public comment, eight people spoke with two expressing thanks for the accelerated schedule for the removal of the cluster housing ordinance from Wanchese and Manns Harbor and other zones throughout unincorporated Dare County.

Mitchell Bateman from Wanchese offered thanks for the expedited process.

Speakers from Manns Harbor supported the removal of the existing cluster housing ordinance from zones in the mainland village. The village used the same process as Wanchese to develop the zoning districts that are mapped.

Angel Khoury asked that the same process be extended to the north end of Roanoke Island.

Timmy Midgett was a member of the original zoning committee for Manns Harbor. He spoke in opposition to cluster housing.

Midgett also raised issues with the proposal before the board. Manns Harbor does not have county water, which means the volunteer fire department must draft water from a nearby source. He warned that Manns Harbor still has power outages and he worried about the septic systems working. Trash will be a problem if collection relies on dumpsters, because bears can’t be kept out, said Midgett.

Robin Mann, another member of the Manns Harbor zoning committee, said “we ask to be notified” of any proposed zoning changes.

Cindy Holda also thanked the board for the accelerated hearing schedule for removing cluster housing from the Manns Harbor zones.

About the proposal, she voiced concerns about stormwater drainage, the proposed septic system and said “we have a huge problem with bears.” The village worked with Dare County to find bear proof garbage can. She concluded “give us back our zoning as soon as possible.”
After discussing the possible ordinance changes, Planning Board members turned their attention to the proposed cluster housing development for 3.14 acres in Manns Harbor.

The proposal by Anchor Commercial LLC calls for a dozen two-story houses not to exceed 1,200 square feet of heated/conditioned space each. Site plans show dwellings separated by 30 feet or 44 feet, exceeding the ordinance’s required 15 feet minimum requirement. Amenities include a playground, a boat ramp and a boat/trailer/RV storage for residents.

Engineer Mike Robinson answered questions about the two on-site TS-II engineered septic systems. “They are just a good system,” said Robinson, who reported he has never seen an overflow. The initial tank in the system has a wastewater capacity of 24 hours. He reported it’s the same system that Dare County chose for the Detention Center replacement.

An easement to an adjoining property will run along a property line and be paved. The board added a condition regarding the easement to the 18 other conditions proposed in a draft special use permit from Gillam.

Robinson said the project would “go with bear-proof trash cans.”

The board found the project reasonable and appropriate and forwarded the application for a special use permit to the Dare County Board of Commissioners.

After the vote, board member David Hines said the Manns Harbor proposal’s layout was “completely different.” The proposal is what a cluster housing development is “supposed to look like.”