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.

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.

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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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… Read more »

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!


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… Read more »

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.


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.

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.


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… Read more »

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.

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… Read more »

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.