KDH board rejects large home amendments

By on October 17, 2019

Mayor Davies said the time had come to act. Commissioner Windley worried about making a rushed decision.

Some residents clamor for action on issue

By a 3-2 margin, the Kill Devil Hills Commissioners on Oct. 16 rejected two proposed text amendments aimed at addressing landscaping and parking issues associated with large single-family dwellings.

The move comes as the proliferation of “mini-hotels” along the town’s oceanfront, most recently a proposed 28-bedroom home, has stirred significant public passion and debate, some of which spilled over at the meeting.

First introduced in August by Mayor Pro Tem Mike Hogan and recommended by the Kill Devil Hills Planning Board, one of the amendments would have required increased vegetative buffering between large homes with a 6,000-square-foot lot coverage or greater.

Intended to address safety at large event homes, the second proposal would have called for additional parking lot setbacks and an emergency access lane for homes with 11 bedrooms or more, as well as limited stacked parking to six vehicles.

Commissioners John Windley, Skip Jones and Terry Gray cast votes against the measures while Mayor Sheila Davies and Hogan threw their support behind the proposals. Those on the board opposing the text amendments cited concerns over the potential effect of devaluing of oceanfront lots and negatively impacting personal property rights.

“I think everyone on this board one hundred percent supports anything that can improve safety, but I just think we are really rushing,” noted Windley, suggesting that a committee or task force be formed to look at the issue further. “Maybe we can find a way to accomplish the same goals without negatively impacting people’s property rights.”

Jones said he needed more time to consider the proposals. “I don’t feel comfortable with it,” he stated. “I don’t think we know what the ramifications are going to be in the future.”

But Hogan argued that the board has studied the issue in depth. “We’ve talked about the issue of these houses for a long time and we got to the point where most of the ways we turned to tried look at the problem, we were stymied by state laws,” Hogan said before the vote. “You can’t require sprinklers, you can’t require exit signs…This is something we can do about safety.”

Davies concurred. “When we agreed to schedule the public hearing for this meeting, I had great hope that this board was finally going to take action after years of no action,” she said. “We have had time to study it, we have had time to speak with folks. The safety issues are not going away.”

“My concern was always about the safety…when are we going to take action,” asserted Davies, drawing applause from the crowd.

A number of residents spoke out on the issue of large event homes during the meeting and at a public forum that followed, triggering some impassioned exchanges between the commissioners and the public.

“I currently live two lots from an event house that was built this year, and it’s akin to living next door to an amusement park,” Patty Armistead told commissioners. “Day and night, blaring music comes through…The stupidity of what is occurring is astounding.”

Colleen Almoney spoke about the safety concerns of the large homes and questioned why there has been no consensus on the issue. “How much time do you need?” she asked commissioners. “What else needs to happen? Someone is going to die, and we’ll be lucky if it is only one person.”

Susan Nelson, who proposed a maximum square footage limit to the board two years ago, said, “Here we are two years later, and no one is listening. You table, table, table. It’s B.S.”

Beth O’Leary and Martha Vaughn, representing the group ‘KDH Against Mini Hotels,’ requested that the board impose a 30-day moratorium on current construction and implement a maximum 6,000-square-foot limit on homes in the town.

“It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road,” O’Leary said. “What is happening is egregious. It’s been put off for far too long. From [Route] 12, you can’t even see the ocean anymore. It’s sad.”

Vaughn said that in the last five years, 12 event homes of 10,000 or more square feet have been built on the town’s oceanfront. “The cottage culture and history of Kill Devil Hills is at risk,” she asserted. She said the group has gathered more than 1,000 online signatures and more than 200 supporting a 6,000-square foot limit.

In the end, it was the consensus among commissioners to begin to form a task force to tackle the issue of large single-family dwellings. “We need to get both parties together to come up with solutions that are viable and will work,” Commissioner Gray noted.

While the framework of such a committee would be worked out in the coming months, commissioners agreed that its direction would likely not be determined until a newly elected board took office in January. Municipal elections will be held on Nov. 5.

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Comments

  • Sand Flea

    Cramming more people into hotels (we all know that they’re not single home dwellings) and not having the necessary protection mechanisms in place is absolutely insane. More and more new construction and no new roads or strategies to deal with the overpopulating of the area. More business popping up and more stoplights and no place for the support help to stay. Talk to business owners; they all say the same thing. We’ve been cramming 50 pounds of stuff into a 10 pound sack. Just a recipe for disaster on numerous levels. Brilliant!

    Thursday, Oct 17 @ 8:47 am
  • tipper

    Talk, talk, talk, new task force, more talk. Two amendments to town code affecting homes larger than 6000 square feet, approved by 5 to 0 by the planning board and nothing. Make sure you get out and vote. Early voting has started.

    Thursday, Oct 17 @ 9:17 am
  • surf123

    It is all about the money and one of them even said so.

    A building with anything over 8-10 bedrooms that is a rented it not a house, nor is one with stacked parking or a dumpster instead of cans.

    It is time for the board to be flipped with the exception of the two who voted yes. At some point we may find out the NO commissioners are somehow intertwined with SAGA.

    Thursday, Oct 17 @ 10:56 am
  • surf123

    What about the personal property rights of those living next door to these mini-hotels?

    Also, consider that personal property rights are already restricted in many ways. Some examples:
    1. You cannot have a commercial operation in a residential zone.
    2. Your house has to be contained within certain setbacks.
    3. You cannot drive on the sand in front of your house whenever you please.
    4. You cannot build your house higher than 52′.

    Thursday, Oct 17 @ 11:00 am
  • Colington Resident

    “Those on the board opposing the text amendments cited concerns over the potential effect of devaluing of oceanfront lots and negatively impacting personal property rights.”

    I don’t think so. Doesn’t KDH have rules and regulations in place that limit value and property rights? If so then remove those rules and regulations so property owners can enjoy maximum value and property rights. I suspect the town wants to allow developers to cram as much taxable property on a site so the town can collect maximum tax revenue. Shrubs and pavement add little to the assessment value but bedrooms do.

    Thursday, Oct 17 @ 2:06 pm
  • Skip Jones

    The issue of large event homes is a very difficult issue that I have been trying to help alleviate for some time. I am also not a big fan of the long high walls next to a smaller and typically older home. I love and have worked on many of the older oceanfront homes. I designed my own home of 30 years with that same architectural look. We have forwarded regulations allowing the cottage court or “cluster ” home construction trying to give builders an alternative. I have also argued for a third designation for these homes between the current single family and commercial designations to no avail. However, after speaking in length with residents on both sides of this issue, the planning dept., and town attorney about the proposed regulations, I did not feel comfortable voting for the language proposed. I am very optomistic that a group of concerned KDH property owners will be able to agree on a positive middle ground that will be functional, legal, and preserve the property rights of all our citizens. I sincerely hope that this could provide a springboard for regulations we could take to Raleigh.

    Friday, Oct 18 @ 9:45 am
  • Rob Vinson

    Any commissioner allegedly concerned with the effect of regulations on ocean-front property values of lots for mini-hotels is blatantly ignoring the direct negative impact of mini-hotels on the property values of surrounding lots, most of which have been owned by the same tax-paying families for decades. By focusing on the possible effect of regulations on the value of mini-hotel lots, the “no” commissioners are essentially saying that they don’t care about the actual effects of mini-hotels on the values of the neighboring lots.

    Saturday, Oct 19 @ 1:57 pm