Judge dismisses petition challenging SAGA permits

By on August 19, 2019

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Petitions filed by two Southern Shores property owners challenging the legality of environmental permits issued for the two 12-bedroom houses built by SAGA on the Southern Shores oceanfront were dismissed last week by Administrative Law Judge J. Randolph Ward.

Southern Shores property owners Gwendolyn Smuts and Marvin Tignor filed the petitions with the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings earlier this month. According to the summary judgement in the case, Smuts and Tignor contended that the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) “acted erroneously and/or failed to act as required by law or rule” when it allowed CAMA (Coastal Area Management Act) permits to be issued, contending that the structures were not compatible with the town’s Land Use Plan.

Smuts and her family own property near the SAGA rental home built at 134 Ocean Boulevard, which is still under construction. Tignor owns property near the home at 98 Ocean Boulevard, which has already received a certificate of occupancy from the town and is currently being rented on a weekly basis, according to Southern Shores Deputy Town Manager Wes Haskett.

A 989-square-foot historic flat top cottage was razed at 98 Ocean Boulevard to make way for the 12-bedroom rental property that is listed with Carolina Designs and is booking for between $18,000 and $28,400 weekly during the 2020 summer season. The new construction at 134 Ocean Boulevard – which is similar in design and size – replaces a 1,237-square-foot-cottage.

Both new houses feature a flat top design but are close to 35 feet in height.

When news of SAGA’s plans for the two properties broke last fall, it generated significant opposition from residents and prompted the Southern Shores Town Council to re-examine its regulations related to residential dwellings. A GoFundMe campaign was started for Smuts’ and Tignor’s legal fees. To date, 64 donors have raised $10,640 of the $50,000 goal.

CAMA permits are required in 20 North Carolina counties for projects that fall within areas of environmental concern and are the first step for developers when proposing a project in such an area. Judge Ward, in his summary, asserted that the petitioners failed to show the DEQ had any obligation or right to withhold approval of the permits. He noted, “There is no evidence of an environmental reason for rejecting the permits.”

In an interview with the Voice, Smuts said she did not plan to appeal the decision. She has, however, filed an appeal in Dare County Superior Court challenging a 3-2 April decision by the Southern Shores Planning Board — which was serving in the capacity of the Zoning Board of Adjustment — that upheld a prior decision by the town’s zoning administrator to issue a zoning permit for the house at 134 Ocean Boulevard. Haskett said a hearing date on the appeal has not been set.

Despite the appeal, Smuts commended Southern Shores for taking action to prevent the proliferation of what are often referred to as mini-hotels. “That’s been the biggest outcome,” she said. “They understand people in Southern Shores don’t want these types of structures.”

Back in 2016, the town enacted a 6,000-square-foot maximum for residential properties in Southern Shores. There is also a 30% lot coverage and 35-foot height limit. In May, the town went a step further and adopted new zoning regulations that use septic capacity and an occupancy limit of 14 people in its definition of vacation cottage.

 

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George Kissell

We’ve owned our home in Kill Devil Hills for 19 years and we have observed significantly more flooding of Beach Road over the years. I have to believe these SAGA mini-hotels are a significant factor contributing to the flooding. When small cottages are razed to build these huge homes the land that once absorbed much of the water is gone replaced by large homes and concrete driveways that accommodate as many as 14 cars. The town of Kill Devil Hills needs to act to prevent further development of mini-hotels and to enforce height restrictions on the new homes before it’s… Read more »

Mary

Although Kdh and SS are two different towns, yes it’s definitely a contributing factor in KDH. But the $$$$$ talks louder than common sense.

Daniel w Myles

I am not opposed to these type of structures being built. But I am opposed to them being listed as single family dwellings ( even catholic families are not that large ) The only difference between a mini motel and a motel is most people who are renting the rooms in the mini motel know each other, but at the same time mini motels do not have to operate under the same safety guidelines as motels and hotels. It’s only a matter of time before a fire kills numerous people in one of these places because of lack of fire… Read more »

Mary

Yes, that’s how the $$$$ skirts around the law. The good old boy system is alive and well in Dare County.
You are right. Someone will get hurt/die before anything is changed though.