But Planning Director Creef needs more time
Meeting on Aug. 13, the Dare County Planning Board made progress on a number of zoning proposals presented by Planning Director Donna Creef that are intended to address the county’s widely acknowledged shortage of housing.
But Creef and the board also agreed that further work is required on other parts of the draft amendments — particularly those pertaining to lot coverage for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) — before they could be recommended and presented to the Dare Board of Commissioners.
The effort to create incentives for more reasonably priced housing has been spearheaded by the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce, which really put this process in motion with a presentation at the June 4 meeting of the Dare Board of Commissioners. The chamber has consistently made the case that this lack of housing limits the local workforce and damages the Dare County economy.
"This is not just a seasonal challenge...[but] a year-round one,” Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Bob Peele told the commissioners at that time. “Professional jobs go unfilled at our hospital and in our healthcare system. People are hired, but can't find reasonably priced housing options, so they leave."
At its Aug. 13 meeting, the planning board agreed that all the new housing opportunities created by the zoning amendments should specifically be for "long-term occupancy" and not vacation or other short-term rentals.
The board also came to a consensus that minimum lot sizes for duplex construction should be reduced by 50%, from 25,000 square feet to 12,500. It also agreed that multifamily dwelling densities be increased from four to six units per acre and that cluster homes developments be made subject to review by the county as conditional uses, with minimum lot sizes of 20,000 square feet, 15 feet of separation between dwellings, 30% maximum lot coverage and a maximum dwelling size of 1,200 square feet.
Also arriving at a consensus that ADUs should be limited to one per lot, the board concluded that setting a limit of 1,200 square feet would be appropriate, as long as this does not exceed 50% of the square footage of the principal dwelling.
Responding to a question from Chamber of Commerce President Karen Brown about setting no minimum lot size for ADUs or reducing this from a suggested minimum of 15,000 square feet to 10,000, the board agreed to set no minimum.
What still remained to be decided was ADU lot coverage. With board members acknowledging that there was a need to set a cap, it was agreed that limiting this to current county standards of 30% would not allow for the new ADU construction, since most properties' lot coverage is already at its allowable maximum.
Planning Board Member Michael Barr proposed that the county allow increased lot coverage on properties with an approved "engineered drainage plan." Barr said this would also help address "this county's tremendous problems with drainage."
Creef replied that the costs involved in requiring a drainage plan would "defeat the whole purpose of making this housing affordable to people."
After prolonged discussion, Creef said she saw a need to "set this aside and come back to it next month," giving her an opportunity to tweak some housing definitions, crunch more numbers, provide examples of what the effects will be from different lot coverages and research what other communities have done with this issue.
"I apologize for this taking longer," Creef stated. "But it's not going to the board of commissioners in September. We want to get this right."
Speaking to the Sentinel about the delay in completing the amendments, Outer Banks Home Builders Association Legislative Chair Duke Geraghty said that likely means the county commissioners will wait until after the Nov. 6 election to make a final decision on proposed zoning changes.
With two seats on the Board of Commissioners at stake in November — Republican incumbent Jim Tobin is facing Democrat Rosemarie Doshier and Republican Anne Petera is running against Democrat Ervin Bateman — Geraghty said the commissioners may want to see who they have on their new board before making a decision about zoning changes.
During the planning board meeting, Geraghty also spoke up, challenging the board to not ignore the "low hanging fruit" and to also apply any proposed zoning changes to the low density R-1 zoning districts in unincorporated Dare County.
He told the Sentinel that leaders fear "opening a can of worms" in the low-density residential zones where restrictive covenants are said to often be in force and homeowners are viewed as being opposed to having apartments located near them.