Company wants to build first 12-bedroom homes in town

Amidst significant local opposition, SAGA Realty & Construction has secured necessary state permits for the development of two 12-bedroom rental homes along the Southern Shores oceanfront and is now in the process of seeking approvals from the town to move forward with the projects.

      The two proposed homes at 98 and 134 Ocean Boulevard fall just within the town’s 6,000-square-foot maximum size of allowable living space and would have a 24-person occupancy and 17 parking spaces each. The SAGA homes would be the first residential dwellings in Southern Shores to have that many bedrooms. Currently, there are four single-family homes that have 10 bedrooms.

SAGA project riles many in Southern Shores

      The development at 98 Ocean Boulevard would also mean the razing of one of Southern Shores’ iconic flat top cottages. Built in 1950, the cottage is 989 square feet in size and was designed by artist Frank Stick.

      In a town that many residents prize for its residential feel and uncluttered ambiance, the SAGA project has prompted letters and phone calls to town hall and a petition to try and stop it. In response, the Southern Shores Town Council has called a special meeting for Nov. 7 to consider what, if anything, it can do to further limit occupancy of single-family dwellings in the future.

      But even its opponents expect the current Ocean Boulevard project to proceed. “All we can do is look to tomorrow,” said Rod McCaughey, a member of the Southern Shores Civic Association (SSCA), which opposes the current development. “The last thing I want to do is wake up in the morning and it be another day and another SAGA home.”

      Noting that the project has met all state and municipal guidelines, SAGA Chief Executive Officer Sumit Gupta told the Sentinel that he plans to put modern-day flat tops at both Ocean Boulevard locations in an effort to “preserve some kind of history.”

      Gupta said the proposed homes have been custom designed and the landscape carefully developed, noting that he’s invested an additional $60,000 to $70,000 to design the homes with the flat top feature.

      “We are not going with the cheapest options and are trying to show some integrity in these structures…and doing it in a modern, economically feasible way,” he said. “Some people have raised the question of saving the old flat top house…that is not really economically feasible on a one million dollar oceanfront lot.”

      SAGA has cleared one hurdle by obtaining Coastal Area Management Act permits from the state Department of Environmental Quality. The company’s next step is to be granted approval for the recombination of two non-conforming lots at both sites in order to apply for demolition and building permits.

      News of SAGA’s plans earlier this month prompted the 1,800-member SSCA to officially oppose the development in a written letter to the town in which it called the homes’ classification as a single-family dwelling “improper and misleading” and argued that it was “out of character” with all the existing single-family dwellings in Southern Shores.

      The municipality has also received numerous phone calls and emails from property owners who oppose the SAGA plans, according to Planning Director Wes Haskett. An online petition at Care2 Petitions has also surfaced, asking Town Council to block the project and future high-density projects. The petition had received just shy of 400 signatures as the Sentinel went to press. 

      The issue of regulating house size is one that a number of local towns are wrangling with. In 2015, the N.C. General Assembly prohibited municipalities from regulating the number and types of rooms in single-family dwellings – leaving Outer Banks towns grappling with how to regulate the size of homes in the resort area where what are often referred to as mini-hotels seem to be proliferating.

      Prior to 2015, Southern Shores capped houses at seven-bedrooms with a 14-person occupancy maximum. Following the 2015 state ruling, however, it began regulating houses based on a 6,000-square-foot maximum.

      The Town of Duck has also recently revisited how to best regulate the size of single-family homes in that municipality. After 2015, Duck moved to limit house sizes based on maximum occupancy allowed by county-issued wastewater permits. However, town officials have noted concern that the measure doesn’t give the municipality adequate control.

      According to Duck Director of Community Development Joe Heard, the town council is set to consider a planning board recommendation at its Nov. 7 meeting to have the town establish its own standards regarding the capacity of septic tanks as a way of regulating house sizes.

      Sally Andrews Gudas owns a vintage flat top cottage on Wax Myrtle Trail with her husband, Steve. The couple began hosting the Southern Shores Historic Flat Top Cottage Tour in 2013 to bring awareness to the slow disappearance of flat tops from the Southern Shores landscape.

      Gudas noted that counting the flat top at 98 Ocean Boulevard, there have been nine oceanfront flat tops that have been torn down in Southern Shores at a rate of one per year. But she added that the overriding concern with the two proposed SAGA homes was not that the flat top would be torn down, but rather “what is proposed to go in its place.”

      “The proposed 12-bedroom homes are clearly not consistent with the Land Use Plan (LUP), including the low density aspect,” Gudas said. The vision statement in that 2012 LUP refers to the municipality as a quiet seaside residential community that is “comprised primarily of small low density neighborhoods consisting of single family homes primarily on large lots.” 

      Gudas said she felt that a 5,000 square foot maximum for single-family homes is more realistic as opposed to the current cap of 6,000 square feet. “It is widely accepted that [residents and property owners] don’t want to see a twelve-bedroom home or any other home that doesn’t square with the Land Use Plan,” she said.

      For his part, SAGA’s Gupta noted that the homes he is planning are being constructed on some of the largest lots in Southern Shores. “There are plenty of six thousand square foot homes up and down Southern Shores and if you take the projects to the north and south of us, they have a bigger footprint [than we are proposing].”

      As for the number of bedrooms, he asserts, “We are not putting a twelve-bedroom on Dogwood Trail…it’s on the oceanfront. We are not squeezing a rental house in the middle of a neighborhood.”

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Reporter, Outer Banks Sentinel

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