Measure would have regulated large gatherings in town
A proposed ordinance that would impose crowd-size limits and other regulations on property owners in Southern Shores who want to throw large parties appears to be dead after it failed to gain the support of the majority on the town council at its July 9 meeting.
Council Member Gary McDonald, who earlier this summer had asked the council to consider a special events ordinance, made a motion to send the proposal back to the Southern Shores Planning Board for additional tweaking. McDonald’s motion, however, failed by a 3-2 margin, with Mayor Tom Bennett, Mayor Pro Tem Chris Nason and Councilman Jim Conners casting the opposing votes.
The proposal comes in the wake of concerns over two large homes being built by Saga Realty on the town’s oceanfront — and it is one of several policy options being debated in Southern Shores to try and control the impact of large event homes. But the three opponents on the town council criticized this measure as an example of regulatory overreach.
The proposed regulation, called the Special Eventsand Occupancy Limitation Ordinance, has attracted significant attention from the community since introduced by McDonald last month. The Outer Banks Association of Realtors has been a vocal opponent, releasing a statement last month warning that “renters hoping to host multi-family parties or dinners in the Outer Banks would have to do so someplace other than Southern Shores.”
Various occupancy limitations have been tossed around since the ordinance was reintroduced last month, and the draft ordinance lays out requirements for parties of 75 people or more.
The discussed regulations range from requiring a designated contact person to be on site, to a sketch site plan of the property, certification of sufficient parking and in some cases a traffic management plan and list of attendees at the party. Large gatherings would also be subject to inspection to determine potentially dangerous conditions as well as the best way to access the property in case of emergency.
Bennett told a crowded meeting room on July 9 that he didn’t believe there was currently a serious issue with special events being held within the town.
“Neighbors talk to neighbors,” he asserted. “We don’t normally invite seventy-five people to our home for a wedding and not tell anyone about it. I think we really are, in my opinion, trying to manufacture a piece of paper to put more control on people’s lives.”
Conners concurred and received a round of applause from the audience when he stated: “I think this whole thing needs to die.”
But Council Member Fred Newberry noted that his support for such an ordinance was in an effort to be proactive in light of “current events,” referring to the new construction by SAGA. “The intent is not to penalize residents having birthday parties or any other party they want to have. The real issue is controlling noise, parking issues, rowdy partying into late in the morning.”
For his part, Nason noted, “Some of the loudest parties are by the people who live here,” and added that he doesn’t see a problem that would warrant such an ordinance. “We are solving a problem where there isn’t one.”
While some version of the proposed Special Events ordinance was floated among council members a few years ago, it was tabled because of concerns over lack of enforceability and ambiguity in the language. The proposal resurfaced last month, however, after SAGA gained approval for two 12-bedroom homes on Ocean Boulevard. The homes, currently under construction, include home theaters and other features to accommodate weddings and other large events.
Town Manager Peter Rascoe told the council during the meeting that the complaints that the town staff responds to involve noise and illegal parking. “We investigate and act on those, they are the only two complaints we basically get.” Prior to the vote, he noted that if council did not enact the ordinance, staff would continue to respond and investigate those complaints.