Dare’s commissioners remove cluster housing ordinance from 22 zones

Published 3:47 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2023

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On May 17, 2023, Dare County commissioners removed the controversial cluster housing ordinance mapped in 22 zones throughout unincorporated sections of the county.

The board action is effective immediately.

The action leaves the ordinance in place in a dozen zones.

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Again, citizens from Wanchese filled the commissioners meeting room and the list for speaking at the announced hearing on the proposed text amendment.

A decidedly different attitude permeated the comments from 28 people who approached the podium.

The citizens thanked the commissioners, planning board and staff for the rapid response to Wanchese villagers’ concerns about a cluster housing development on Old Wharf Road.

“Thank you for your heartfelt concern,” said Lorraine Tillett.

“I like the way everything has worked out,” said Pixie Wescott.

The villagers demanded a return to the village’s zoning regulations created by a public process.

During an intense two months of action, Wanchese citizens showed up in numbers to voice concerns for their own village as well as Manns Harbor and East Lake.

Robin Mann from Manns Harbor has spoken in support of that village’s zoning that followed the same public process that created Wanchese zoning. She asked the commissioners to reinstate the 2007 zoning for her village.

At this special meeting night, concern extended to all of unincorporated Dare County as two speakers called to eliminate the cluster housing ordinance completely.

The Dare County Planning Board is scheduled to continue its discussion about the cluster housing ordinance at its next meeting on June 6, 2023 at 6 p.m. in the commissioners meeting room, located at 954 Marshall C. Collins Drive in Manteo.

Britton Shackelford noted appreciation for the big ad that ran several times in The Coastland Times.

One of the complaints from Wanchese was that people were unaware of the cluster housing ordinance changes in 2018. In response, the Dare County Planning Department ran a half page ad three times about the May 17, 2023 hearing. Notification was also included in Dare County’s email newsletter.

Sandy Barile urged the commissioners to change notification procedures like posting signs throughout a community and putting public service announcements on radio stations as was done with the May 17 hearing.

Additional comments included requiring environmental impact statements for projects calling for filling wetlands and hiring a professional engineer as a county staffer. One speaker thanked the commissioners for changing the meeting time. The commissioners normally meet at 9 a.m. This meeting started a 5 p.m.

Several speakers asked the commissioners consider controlling growth.

Laurie Tillett urged the commissioners to find “some way to control growth.”

Rex Mann urged “we’ve got to get control of growth.”

“I was a little angry at times,” said Mann, opining that a little humble is a good thing.

Mikey Daniels admitted he was aggravated one night.

Justin Bateman also apologized. “I was a bit brash.”

Commissioner Ervin Bateman made the motion to remove the cluster housing ordinance from the 22 zoning districts indicated. It was seconded by commissioner Steve House.

As the last to speak, board Chairman Robert L. Woodard said “I’ve learned a valuable lesson.” He mentioned putting big ads in the newspaper and notices in communities.

Over the last 45 days, Woodard said, “I’ve had some sleepless nights.”

Woodard said “I was out of character two meetings ago. I apologize.” The crowd reacted with loud applause.

To the gathering, Woodard said “Thank you for the kind words you’ve said this evening. We’ve got to find a way to make it work for all of us.”

Woodard called for the vote. It was a unanimous 5-0 vote. The crowd erupted, standing, cheering and clapping.

Two commissioners were absent. Commissioner Jim Tobin did not attend. Woodard asked for prayers for the commissioner. Commissioner Danny Couch was absent due to a business engagement.

This was a special meeting of the Dare County Board of Commissioners. Only the items on the published agenda could be considered.

Those items were the cluster housing ordinance hearing and action; presenting and adopting the updated human resources personnel manual; and presentation of the manager’s recommended budget for fiscal year 2024.