Nags Head takes small step toward workforce housing

Published 2:12 pm Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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Nags Head commissioners approved a text amendment that would allow older hotels or motels in the General Commercial District to convert their structures into long-term rentals if desired.

The request came from Albemarle and Associates, representing Golasa Holdings, LLC. Golasa Holdings, owner of Owens Motor Court, began the process last year to help out people who needed a place to live and were struggling to find housing.

The ordinance stipulates that the units must be for long term occupancy only (which is determined by 90 days or more) and at least half of the units must be occupied by the local workforce.

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“I’d like to see us try it,” said Mayor Ben Cahoon. “It does make a move toward some workforce housing. It takes an obsolete use, an obsolete structure and gives it an alternative to being torn down and putting single family rentals back there. That’s how we lost so many of those hotels in the first place – we didn’t give them any options except to tear them down and put rental houses in their place.”

The other commissioners were in agreement, but expressed hesitancy in the town’s ability to enforce the workforce requirement.

The ordinance states that the town will complete an annual audit to verify adherence to the rules.

“I’m okay trying it but I am concerned with what mechanisms we’re going to use [to enforce the requirements]. Maybe semi-annual audit would be good at first,” said commissioner Megan Lambert.

Mayor Cahoon suggested a compromise in the language of the text amendment that allows for one annual audit plus the town’s authority to request additional audits if necessary. The additional language was approved.

There are only a handful of hotels in the General Commercial District that would be eligible for this new use (Roadway Inn/Seahorse Inn, Owens Motor Court, Tarheel, First Colony, and Nags Head Beach Inn) and the town staff was not aware of any owners aside from Golasa who were interested in pursuing it.

But it looks like in the time it took for the town to discuss and pass the ordinance, Golasa moved ahead with renovations and regular nightly rentals of his hotel.

“I was excited about it last year,” he said to commissioners before the vote. He said he crunched the numbers and he will make 40% less money by converting it to long term rentals.

He said he’s “not opposed” to converting the hotel but he was undecided about what to do.