Discussion about proposed housing development continues in Manteo

Published 7:58 am Wednesday, August 23, 2023

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At its August 2 meeting, the Manteo Board of Commissioners wrestled again with a proposed 46-unit housing development and a request from Dare County to hook up to the town’s wastewater treatment plant.

For the second time, Dare county manager Robert L. Outten appeared to press the county’s case for affordable housing. Outten was accompanied by two representatives from Woda Cooper Companies, Inc.

Outten’s presentation preceded a public hearing on the issue. Six citizens spoke.

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For Woda Cooper, Patrick Olding, development specialist, briefly described the employee-owned corporation, based in Columbus, Ohio. The company operates in 17 states, has 16,000 units with 30,000 residents. The company’s model is to own and manage the units it builds. The company, with 15 projects in North Carolina, responded to a request for qualifications issued by Dare County.

The project as described is on Dare County-owned land on California Lane, outside Manteo town boundaries. Upland area is 4.09 acres. Three buildings will have 12 one-bedroom units with 676 square feet; 28 two bedroom units with 900 square feet; and six three-bedroom units with 1,112 square feet. Some 69 parking spaces are provided.

A staffed management and leasing office will be onsite, along with a community room, fitness center, laundry facilities and, outside, a playground, tot lot and covered picnic area with tables and grill.

The estimated development cost is $25,000 per unit.

Dare’s original proposal was for 120 units and the Manteo commissioners told the county that was too much density. Outten called the proposed 46 units “the sweet spot” for building the project.

Said Outten, “Woda builds nice things.”

Eric Wright, a Woda Cooper development analyst, told the commissioners that the “rental market is very tight.” He estimates that 5,100 rental households will meet eligibility requirements for the project.

Of particular concern to the Manteo commissioners was provision for teacher housing.

In response to that concern, the project will dedicate five housing units to teachers in the three Dare County schools on Roanoke Island. To make this happen, Woda Cooper will pull five units out of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program.

The project needs to connect to the Manteo wastewater treatment system. Outten said, using 120 gallons per bedroom, the project is projected to produce 11,810 wastewater gallons per day, right at 2% of the system’s capacity.

Manteo’s wastewater treatment system is now at a monthly average capacity of 56% of its 600,000 gallon capacity. Under state rules, when the town reaches 80% of capacity, expansion planning must begin.

The proposed project will pay at least a $175,000 impact fee.

As to annexation, Outten said to the commissioners, “that’s your call.” The county’s administration building is served by the Manteo wastewater system, but was not annexed.

The project is currently called Sanderling Commons. Outten said the town can suggest other names.

Outten concluded his presentation with a request for other commissioner concerns. He asked for a path forward or not at the next meeting.

Manteo commissioners did have a series of questions.

What are the rents? For a one-bedroom, $680; two bedroom, $810, were the answers.

The housing will remain affordable. A 30-year ground lease to Woda-Cooper carries the restriction. After 30 years, the housing reverts to Dare County in perpetuity.

During the public hearing, six citizens spoke.

Doug Backman said he was pleased that the project was scaled down. He wanted to know if property taxes would be paid on project. The answer was yes at the meeting. He also commented that if the project is approved, three subsidized housing projects would be with a quarter mile of each other on the west side of town.

Hal Goodman raised the issue of wastewater calculations. On June 23, 2023, Senate Bill 673 was signed by Gov. Roy Cooper. The new legislation reduced the 120 gallons per day to 75 gallons per day in calculating sewage flow for new dwellings. For this project, Dare County used the 120 gallons per day calculation. Goodman said the new rate will “get people in trouble.” He said the wastewater treatment plant is 30 years old and needs upgrades. A pump station is proposed. Goodman said “pump stations don’t come cheap.”

What’s the proposed AMI, queried Michele Lewis. 60%? 40? 80? AMI stands for area median income. She suggested 30%. She also commented that “the traffic is bad.”

Linda Campion also asked a series of questions: What does Bowsertown think? How many cars? How many people? “This island can’t do everything for everyone.”

Dave Stempel wished that Josh O’Brien, the town’s director of the Water and Sewer Department, were present at the meeting.

Nicole Northrup expressed concern about already “chronic parking problems.” She cautioned the commissioners to “be careful.”

Commissioner Tod Clissold said two themes emerged: sewer and traffic. “I’m surprised more people were not speaking.”

Commissioner Ruth Stetson pleaded with Manteo citizens, “we need your advice.”

Mayor Pro Tem Betty Selby thanked Outten, Dare County commissioner Wally Overman and the two Woda Cooper representatives for attending the meeting. Mayor Bobby Owens and commissioners Darrell Collins and Sherry Wickstrom were not present. Also attending the meeting was commissioner Eddie Mann.

The Manteo Board of Commissioners next meets on Wednesday, September 6, 2023 at 6 p.m. in Town Hall.