Boat parking for dining patrons tabled again in Nags Head

By on January 1, 2019

Miller’s wants to provide slips for eight boats. (Rob Morris)

A proposal to allow boats to dock behind two soundside restaurants in Nags Head stalled again Wednesday after a hearing before the town’s Board of Commissioners.

Commissioners said they wanted more information after a public hearing and discussion raised more questions about boat traffic and potential damage to the shoreline.

If commissioners approve the request, Tale of the Whale and Miller’s Waterfront Restaurant would be able to provide docking for up to eight boats for their customers.

In the hearing, former Mayor Bob Edwards said the change would threaten marshes along the shoreline and the sound bottom while opening up the possibility of more than a dozen commercial piers behind commercial properties.

Brian Rubino of Quible & Assoiciates, the engineering firm working with the restaurant owners, said that a Coastal Area Management Act permit had addressed the environmental risks and that Miller’s would use an existing pier by adding a “T” at the end.

The idea was scheduled for a public hearing because it would change provisions of the town’s zoning ordinance, which prohibits commercial marinas along the sound unless they are approved as part of an outdoor recreation site.

But Commissioner Webb Fuller asked whether a change in the ordinance was even needed.

“I can’t find in our ordinance where your client can’t extend his pier if they wanted to,” Fuller said while questioning Rubino. Later, he raised many of the same issues as Edwards did in proposing a delay on action.

Hal Goodman with Construction Engineering Services, which created a docking design for Tale of The Whale, said the Division of Coastal Management would not issue a CAMA permit because of the existing town ordinance.

Planners have kicked around the idea for more than a year while dealing with the prospects of the increased traffic and noise that more docking facilities could generate.

Mayor Ben Cahoon advocated allowing boats to dock at the restaurants, comparing the area to Shallowbag Bay in Manteo. He said Wednesday he was also confident that CAMA permits would address all of the environmental concerns.

“Generally, I wish we could move away from a strict reliance on the car for us to get to literally every place we want to go,” Cahoon said.

The town’s code prohibits commercial marinas unless they are part of an outdoor recreation site. The definition of a marina includes docks used for mooring boats that are not for the exclusive use of a landowner and might provide other services, such as fueling.

In August of 2017, the Board of Commissioners turned down a request by Miller’s and Quible & Associates engineering to allow up to 10 boat slips for commercial businesses in the Outdoor Recreation Overlay District, which runs roughly down U.S. 158 from the Soundside event site and around the bend to the Manteo Causeway.

The proposed ordinance considered Wednesday would add a use called docking facility, which is more limited than a commercial marina. Building a dock would have to be an accessory use to the main business.

While the Planning Board endorsed allowing up to eight slips, the staff recommended denying it in favor of a more conservative approach of four slips as a conditional use.

Commissioners voted to table the proposal until February so that the planning staff can address additional questions and whether it is consistent with the Land Use Plan.

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Recent posts in this category

Windy Bill

Looking at the comments from Sans and J it’s obvious that the Town is missing a current income stream. Every home owner who has a dock and has a visitor by boat is now operating a marina and should be fined.


Narrow minded isn’t the word. Again if the owner of a resturant was owned buy a local politican. And they wanted a BOAT DOCK. Answer me people of obx, what would happen? This is the voice of your constituents obx leaders.


“The definition of a marina includes docks used for mooring boats that are not for the exclusive use of a landowner and might provide other services….” If this is accurate, then the commissioners need to amend the town’s ordinance to fix this definition, which is overly broad. There are dozens of docks in the area used for mooring boats “not for the exclusive use of a landowner” and “might” (really???) provide other services. The town needs help with drafting its ordinances.


All of the above comments are very valid, and anyone who opposes the DOCKS (not the same as a marina) is being very narrow-minded.

The real irony is that Tale of the Whale is surrounded by boat rental businesses with docks, a public kayak launch plus gazebo, and two bait/tackle shops.

But adding 4 or 8 boat slips is going to wreck the fragile ecosystem there.


I wish they would have a dock behind pamlico Jacks, that’s a great idea!!


The more I think about this the more I am starting to feel that this might be seen as discrimination against boat owners. Why is it that I can drive my car to eat at an establishment but I am restricted from driving my boat there. If the establishment is willing to allow me a spot to park my boat while I eat why should I be restricted? The type of transportation I choose to use should be my decision. Someone needs to start a petition and serve it to the board and force them to allow us a choice,… Read more »

jackie harris

I am at a loss as how it would destroy the marshes? CAMA will determine the enviormental possible damage and the docks will be out far enought to have deep enough water for docking!, I am sure the wae action from the boats will not rech shore if it has a NO WAKE zone. Maybe they should get Mike Kelly on board for Pamlico Jacks also he seems to get everything he wants in NH!


Mayor Bob Edwards it isn’t a marina if i can’t rent a slip to dock my boat I can’t park my truck(no parking) they don’t offer marine supplys for sale. It is a boat slip dockage only. And if yout trying to protect the shoreline and marshes then you better make everyone that has a dock behind there home remove them. Example shallow bag bay is definitely a marina. Behind tail of the whale isnt. Open your eyes mayor.


Beach your boat behind the establishment. You will be using this mode of transport while it is warm out, so you will be wearing shorts and flip flops anyway. Looks like another tax opportunity from the island here.


One additional thought is that there wI’ll only be small boats or big skiff that could get to any of the resturants behind nagshead. It shallow draft only.


“Generally, I wish we could move away from a strict reliance on the car for us to get to literally every place we want to go,” Cahoon said. A few boats would never make a difference if your goal is to remove cars from the road. I’m for whatever type of transportation people want to take and if it is a boat then do it, but don’t try and tie this into reducing the number of cars on the road. The reality is Dare County is so spread out that it is only accessible by car and there are lots… Read more »


Makes perfect sense a town government would think transient boat slips at a restaurant would fall under the heading of commercial marinas.

Just think of the revenue stream Nags Head & The Fish Cops are missing.
1. Make it a no wake zone and fine the offenders.
2. On the water sobriety checks will also bring in offenders and fines.
3. Catch someone tied up after restaurant hours and fine the offenders.
4. ?????? The sky’s the limit.

The lawyers should also be on board since they would make $$$$$$ defending those ticketed and fined.

Seems a reasonable idea. The docking area would not be close to the shore.

Greg Honeycutt

With Water all around us it’s seems that folks that want to boat to a local Restaurant is long overdue. 8 boats per establishment seems very reasonable. Everyone enjoys eating on the water whether it’s the Sound or the Ocean. The OBX , does not have that many waterfront Restaurants considering the amount of water around us. Having boat access, especially for locals, should have happened a long time ago. I hope the Nags Head Mayor and Commissioners will move forward in approving this reasonable request.


The commissioners mind’s reside in Smallville. Go anywhere else with a water environment and they all have restaurants on the water. You can’t go to restaurant by water in Nags Head, but you can go get some methadone at the methadone clinic!


I agree with the previous posters. This is ridiculous! I say, if you have a boat that can handle that shallow water, tie up there and give those places your business. A dock in front of a restaurant is not a “marina”!

Windy Bill

Taking a boat to a restaurant is a really great experience. Why do people oppose it? Are they jealous cause they don’t have a boat? Well they probably know someone who does. Offer to buy their lunch if they are the designated pilot. A wonderful time will be had by all, made extra special if kids are along.


Seriously we live on an Island with restaurants on the water and the board has to think twice about allowing patrons to dock their boat while they eat and spend money at a tax paying establishment? What a luxury we have to be able to go to dinner by water.


It’s not a marina if it’s at a resturant. It’s not like there going to have a,ship store and sell fuel. It just a place to park a vehicle. A water vehicle. If it were owned by a dare or nagshead commissioner and they wanted a boat dock, would they get a boat dock?