Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Commercial Development in Swan Beach

Unlike previously reported, we seem to now have confirmation that the proposal is moving forward for the commercial component in Swan beach. Here's the report from the Virginia Pilot's Jeff Hampton.

By Jeff Hampton
The Virginian-Pilot
© September 25, 2008

Plans have resurfaced for a commercial development, including a 50-room inn, on the northern Currituck Outer Banks where wild horses roam.

Residents in Currituck's four-wheel drive area have begun mustering opposition, as they did four years ago, when the project was withdrawn.

Developer Gerald Friedman of Norfolk wants the Currituck County Board of Commissioners to amend the development ordinance to allow "off road historic village commercial overlay" districts. If that passes, commissioners would be asked to designate Friedman's 25.77-acre site on Ocean Pearl Road and Albatross Lane in Swan Beach as such a district.

Allowed uses, all of which are listed in Friedman's plan, include a 50-room inn, a convenience store, county services such as a fire department, a church, professional offices and apartments.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the request at the Nov. 17 board meeting, said Ben Woody, director of the county planning department.

Residents have created a blogspot that includes a link to a petition against the project.

"This is the last sanctuary for the wild horses," Lynne Wilson, a resident and member of the Northern Currituck Beaches Task Force, said in an e-mail. "Commercialization would certainly bring an end to their safety and ultimately their freedom. Where will they go?"

Wilson said residents are concerned that if overlay districts are approved, they could be applied anywhere in the northern Currituck Outer Banks.

The project envisioned by Friedman was first proposed in 2004 but withdrawn from the agenda of a Board of Commissioners meeting in 2005. At the time, the planning staff and the planning board did not recommend the project, basing their decisions largely on the county's land-use plan, which calls for the four-wheel-drive area to remain sparsely developed. Three weeks ago, Friedman's attorney asked county officials to reactivate the approval process.

The north beach communities were platted in the 1960s and 1970s with plans for a future paved road. On old plats, the tract proposed for the commercial overlay district was labeled as a business district. Currituck officials maintain the old maps do not override the residential zoning there.

Friedman has owned and paid taxes on the property since 1966, he said Wednesday. The business district was part of a contract signed by county officials at the time and filed with the plats, he said.

"I hope the county has enough class to honor their contract," Friedman said.

The herd of wild horses roams in about 17,000 acres between a fence that runs from ocean to sound north of Corolla to another fence at the Virginia line about 12 miles north. Horses often graze around homes there. But much of the area remains undeveloped, owned by the state and federal governments.

Jeff Hampton, (252) 338-0159,

Previous Post from 9-24-08

I received a comment on the last post that I felt should be brought out in the form of another post.

I understand there are a few proposals for commercial development in the four wheel drive area. I am very curious about all of them. I do some retail business and wonder if there is the possibility of retail opening up up there.

I have heard, though I am making an effort to confirm directly, that there may be a proposal presented to the county commissioners again at their November 17th meeting to make a UDO amendment to create an Off Road Historic Village Commercial Overlay District on the North end of Swan Beach. The developer, Swan Beach Corolla, LLC, initially attempted something similar to this in 2005 but removed it from the agenda before the Board was to take action. It appears this is a very similar plan or a reinstatement of that plan. One group opposed to such a plan has posted a copy of the request on their blog. I'll update more as I receive verifiable information.