A potential multi-family housing development in Avon took a step forward at the November 15 Dare County Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting, as the BOC voted unanimously to approve a zoning text amendment that would allow approximately 20-24 housing units at the site.
The new development will be located at the site of the former R/C Movie Theater at the Hatteras Island Shopping Plaza. The vacant theater, which has been unoccupied for years, will be demolished to make room for the multi-family structure.
Prior to the amendment, a density of 10 units per acre was allowed, per the site’s R-3 and C-2 district zoning regulations. The proposed language that was approved at the Nov. 15 public hearing allows a density bonus of 20 units per acre for group developments existing prior to 1992, which are served by a central wastewater treatment plant.
One public commenter raised concerns about the potential development prior to the hearing, and how it would impact traffic in the popular surrounding area. Built in 1998, the Hatteras Island Shopping Plaza is one of the largest shopping centers on Hatteras Island, and is home to the island’s only chain grocery store, as well as a number of other storefronts.
“It’s the largest and busiest [center] on Hatteras Island. We have the number one Food Lion store in the entire Food Lion chain… It is so busy on a weekend during the season, that you cannot find a parking space. You have to drive around and hopefully wait for an opening, or move down to the other end of the parking lot,” said commenter Pat Barto. “Have you thought about the burden this puts on our entire community of people who come to this parking lot expecting to shop, and who will now have to navigate around a residential community, smack dab in the parking lot?”
Dare County Planning Director Donna Creef addressed some of these issues before the vote, noting that the majority of parking and accessibility concerns would be reviewed during the building process, once a concrete plan for the development was formed.
“We don’t have a site plan that’s associated with that [development] yet,” she said. “If and when there is a specific site plan that’s submitted to us, at that time, they’ll have to demonstrate that they meet the parking requirements that apply to multi-family housing.”
She also noted that the amendment change would be unlikely to have a huge impact throughout the county, since it only applied to pre-1992 developments that are served by a central wastewater treatment plant.
“It’s written to be very narrow in its scope, the way that we typically write ordinances, and I can’t see this replicating itself in any other place,” said Creef. “But I want to stress again that they can still go in there and build multi-family [units] whether you approve this amendment or not. It’s just that their business plan is such that they think that they can accommodate more [units] there on the site…”
“When we started with these Housing Amendments, it was our goal to try to cultivate some amendments and some interest in the private sector to step up and do exactly what the developers are hoping to do here.”
Creef also noted that she had spoken with the developers before the meeting, and their intention is to have a total of 20-24 units at the site, although again, there was no formal site plan in hand yet.
Affordable housing has been a longtime and perpetual issue on the Outer Banks, and recent amendments like the one approved at the November 15 BOC meeting are aimed at attracting more multi-family developments to accommodate workers and residents.
“The amendments are designed to allow them to re-develop a building that’s been sitting vacant for years,” said Creef. “Yes, it’s a busy site. But it would be just as busy if they reopened up the theater.”
“I anticipate that this will be used [as housing] for some of the tenants in that shopping center – probably for Food Lion, and probably for some of their other tenants as well… So this is something that addresses a very acute issue that we’ve been trying to deal with.”
The full report on the Request to Amend the R-3 and C-2 Zoning Regulations can be viewed via the BOC’s agenda packet at https://www.darenc.com/home/showpublisheddocument/10292.
The Dare County BOC’s November 15 meeting can be viewed online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HACXVOJY180.
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