New bid to limit house sizes in KDH faces an uphill battle

By on June 27, 2017

Shown under construction in 2015, this house has 25 bedrooms and 28 bathrooms. (Michelle Wagner)

The Kill Devil Hills Board of Commissioners will consider a zoning amendment Wednesday that would limit the size of houses along the oceanfront to 6,000 square feet.

But the latest bid might not fare any better than the last effort, which stalled in late 2015.

The Planning Board and staff have already recommended denying the request, which will be the subject of a public hearing at the board’s meeting Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

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Among other things, Planning Director Meredith Guns wrote in a report on the request, about 60 properties exceed 6,000 square feet and would be left as non-conforming. So if one of them sustained more than 50 percent damage, it could only be rebuilt to the new limit.

Imposing a new limit would also amount to downzoning, which could present legal problems for the town from owners who bought property with the expectation of building larger houses. They could argue that their lots had been aribitrarily devalued.

The change includes an intent to protect aesthetics and “quiet enjoyment, public safety and public welfare.” Guns contended that the language does not define whose interests would be served.

Supporters of the idea, which was submitted by Sharon Nelson, cite the continuing trend toward mammoth vacation homes, some more than 16 bedrooms, that in effect have become commercial event sites for weddings and other occasions. Large numbers of vehicles, crowded beaches and noise have all been mentioned.

Two recent attempts at raising height limits along the oceanfront pointed to the big houses as the only choice for property owners to realize an acceptable return on investment. Increasing the height limit from 42 to 50 feet, proponents argued, would encourage more hotels as an alternative for an underserved market of short-term visitors.

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Guns noted in her report that Southern Shores now has a 6,000-square-foot limit and Nags Head, 5,000 square feet. Duck sets the number of bedrooms based on the square footage of the lot. Kitty Hawk and Dare County have no specific size limits.

“There is no justification for the 6,000-square-foot maximum,” she wrote. “This will need to be examioned and proven as the proper size based on some factual interest to the Town; otherwise it could also be deemed arbitrary.

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Comments

  • Matthew Byrne

    The factual interest to our town is that without such regulation/restriction in the face of bordering towns with limitations is that we would then be the ‘dumping ground’ for homes of this style and nature.

    Protection of existing homeowner property rights in the face of outright Greed by the Town.

    I’ve said it before, the only people who benefit from such development are the developers and the Town’s inflated Tax Base – pushing up Town Employees in numbers and Salaries.

    Tuesday, Jun 27 @ 3:44 pm
  • Frank Moore

    Sure wouldn’t want the KDH officals to debate the issue and make a change for the good. To begin, a zoning or any ordinance can be modified if it is for the good of the whole. To say you can’t change because of a possible legal test is stupid. The argurement about people buying expecting to build large houses makes no sense. Look at all the changes which have been made over the years and there were no tests. Oh I forgot this is Saga our officals are scared of.
    These other persons who had changes should now sue the town for changes that affected them. Where was this reasoning before Saga began building mini hotels in residential areas. Town officals wake up and let them sue if that is what they choose to do. Let the courts figure it out you apparently can’t.

    Tuesday, Jun 27 @ 5:55 pm
  • Cliff Blakely

    I agree Matt. But, I think it’s too late. They’ve grabbed up every available inch. Shame on KDH for allowing this.

    Tuesday, Jun 27 @ 8:01 pm
  • charlie

    When is a “home”a “Home”? And when is a “home” a business? This is the crux of the problem.
    The towns and the county have turned a blind eye to this real problem. It may come back to haunt them. Individual homes are exempt from fire sprinkler regulations. These business “homes” claim the same exemption. The possibility of a conflagration with loss of life in these “homes” could devolve into lawsuits against the towns and the county for not mandating sprinklers in an obvious ongoing business. So, instead of playing a game about “size”, make regulations about property use. If you are building a property for short term rental income with more than 6 occupants, you are a business and all business rules apply. Ask any firefighter if they fear a wind driven fire among a row of megamansions? Fire codes could be adopted for the safety and welfare of all which could limit the density and size of such buildings. The fear of developers lawsuits should pale in the face of liability lawsuits if the laws and codes don’t reflect reality.

    Wednesday, Jun 28 @ 3:04 am
  • Scales of Balance

    lol @ the folks who would prefer a hotel over a large house…higher density, eyesore, blocks ocean views, all used as reasons against large homes and would be magnified via hotel construction. Hotels, by their construction methods, are designed to last longer than large homes.

    Logic test = fail.

    Wednesday, Jun 28 @ 9:27 am
  • Harold

    I find it laughable the Town officials express this concern about the “expectations” of lot buyers, but have no concern for controlling development or future needs to support the overcrowding, environmental issues and impact on the character of the town this mini-hotels have.

    Wednesday, Jun 28 @ 9:31 am
  • Bea Southworth

    It’s already gotten way out of hand. The Outer Banks is no longer the idealistic haven it once was. So sad. If they reel it in now they may keep it from becoming a Myrtle Beach but I doubt the will.

    Wednesday, Jun 28 @ 12:43 pm
  • surf123

    Downzoning or not, the town can create laws to restrict development at anytime. At first zoning laws were a handful of pages, but now they are a book because as times change the laws adapt to cover and/or restrict new uses. Same holds for the the building code, which continues to grow. Originally no fire protection was required, then a single smoke alarm, then multiple smoke alarms and now depending on where you live sprinkler systems. Zoning laws and building codes are not static documents.

    There is no way to argue that just because someone purchased a lot and planned to build a 6000sf rental house, they are entitled to do exactly that for eternity. Consider if a businessman purchased a parcel of land with plans to build/operate a strip club in the future. Just because it was an allowed use when they bought the land, they cannot do so now that laws restricting the locations of that type of business have passed.

    A counter example where a zoning law change would adversely affect people would be if the height restriction were changed to make hotels feasible. The individuals who own land near a hotel would have their view obstructed by this change in zoning. Could they sue as well, since they purchased assuming they would not have a shadow cast over their home by a hotel.

    Another example is the method for determining the building height measurement. At one time it was measured from the level of the lot, but this was later revised because developers/homeowners were adding massive amounts of fill to lots in order to exceed the minimum base flood elevation, but still have 3 solid stories. The rules were later revised to be measured from the center of the street adjacent to the building site. I am certain many people had plans to do the same, but could not since the rule changed.

    More examples:
    1. CAMA permitting which has changed overtime.
    2. The limitations on rebuilding substantially damaged structures.
    3. Lot coverage laws which did not exist at one point and now can be highly restrictive on smaller lots.
    4. Number of permutable bedrooms. Consider a lot of less than 10,000sf, which prior to 2000 or thereabouts did not have a number of bedrooms restriction. Now a lot of that size is limited to 4 bedrooms.

    Government is here to protect the interests of the majority and they need to step in and take control of this situation. The town can change the law and/or put restrictions in place such as deeming any house with over X number of rooms a motel, which falls under commercial law requiring sprinklers, lighted exit doors, handicap access to all areas, etc. The bottom line is that these are not homes as no one lives in them. If they are rented continuously then they are businesses and in this case motels.

    The only upside to this story is that hotels make no sense with the height restrictions. The height restriction will come under attack again so we all have to be prepared to take action to prevent any deviation from what we have now.

    Wednesday, Jun 28 @ 3:48 pm
  • Local Girl

    The Outer Banks is nothing more than mammoth homes and it’s becoming an eye sore. They just can’t build enough…let’s tear down nostalgia hotels to build more stupid homes that sit for majority of the year. It’s sick. It’s all about the almighty dollar! Poor Outer Banks has been bought and sold. So let’s keep building bigger houses, putting restaurants out of business, having tourists rape the grocery stores of food, clog up the beach with more trash and filth. Welcome to the Outer Banks….tourist overrun!

    Wednesday, Jun 28 @ 4:46 pm
  • Bean

    It’s past time for them to address the issue. Just this past week one of these eyesore homes had so many people staying in it they were parking their vehicles overnight in the public beach access because they couldn’t all park in the driveway (the house is next to the beach access). Now there are three more lots advertised as home/lot packages where the existing old style homes can be torn down or moved and 10 – 20 bedroom homes can be built in their place! Who needs something that large!!

    Putting a limit on the size of the home you can build doesn’t ‘arbitrarily devalue’ the lot. There are only so many oceanfront lots available.

    The average homeowner can only update or build within the existing footprint of the home on the lot… why aren’t developers held to the same standards?

    Tuesday, Jul 4 @ 9:01 pm
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