Friday, February 26, 2010

USA Today Article about the Outer Banks

Just saw this article fro the USA Today. It is a nice summation for the Outer Banks though it understates the 4WD area (which is probably good for those that love it to keep it a secret!) Couldn't keep them from using the photo below in the article:


Best for: Laid-back beach lovers who enjoy watching the sunset from their decks.

Claim to fame: The birthplace of powered flight, where the Wright Brothers took off at Kitty Hawk.

Don't miss: The Lost Colony by Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Green is the nation's longest-running outdoor drama and has been performed on Roanoke Island since 1937.

Getting there: The closest major airport is in Norfolk, Va., about 90 miles from the Northern beaches.

Tourism information:,

The Outer Banks have long attracted visitors who march to a slightly different drummer, from the pirate Blackbeard to pioneering aviators Orville and Wilbur Wright to modern-day second-home owners miles from the nearest road. You don't have to be a rebel to love these barrier islands off North Carolina, but a flair for escapism helps.
The East Coast is lined with beach resort communities that share such traits as thick condo and high-rise developments, amusement parks, souvenir shops and sometimes even strip bars. Not the Outer Banks, which are sleepy and underdeveloped.

"Planning has been very good, and compared to most beach towns, there is very limited development, with no high-rises," says Melanie Day, a broker for Brindley Beach Vacations and Sales in Duck, N.C. "There are some condos, but the vast majority are single-family homes."

Starting at the Virginia border, the Outer Banks span three counties and run south for about 130 miles. The most populated section is about 90 miles long, from the town of Corolla south through Nags Head. One reason for the limited development is that much of the Outer Banks is razor-thin, and many homes are waterfront or within walking distance of either the Atlantic Ocean or the Albemarle, Currituck, Pamlico and Roanoke sounds. Not coincidentally, the widest area, in Kill Devil Hills, is the most developed, with more year-round residents and what locals call "french fry alley" for its fast-food eateries.

The towns popular with second-home owners are small, and there is also a huge rental market. "Corolla has maybe 500 full-time residents, but in summer, there are thousands, between renters and second-home owners," Day says. "You can stay in towns like Duck and Corolla and never leave (because) they are self-contained, with restaurants and shops."

Besides the beach, inshore and offshore fishing and windsurfing are the biggest activities, and large portions of the Outer Banks, including the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, are protected for recreational uses. The region is also famous for its historic lighthouses and wild horses descended from shipwrecked Spanish mustangs.

A look at three Outer Banks neighborhoods

• Northern beaches: This area includes the towns of Duck, Corolla, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills. "Favorites include Duck and Corolla, and it's mostly single-family homes, though at the low end you can get a one-bedroom waterfront condo for under $200,000. Most homes are in the $400,000-$800,000 range, though Corolla is known for larger oceanfront homes up to $5 million," realtor Day says. North of Corolla, where Highway 12 ends, nearly 15 miles of dunes stretch to the Virginia border, dotted with vacation homes accessible only by four-wheel-drive vehicles: "That's a whole different buyer seeking remote privacy."

• Southern beaches: "Hatteras Island is even less developed," Day says, and it's more known for its excellent fishing and windsurfing. It is also at least another 30 minutes farther from the mainland bridges and includes more protected lands. Avon, Hatteras Village and Rodanthe, where the Richard Gere romance Nights in Rodanthe was set, are the most popular towns, and prices are lower than farther north. "Low-end one-bedroom condos start around $100,000, and the high end would be a seven-bedroom oceanfront home for about $2.5 million," Day says.

• Mainland: The main bridge from the Outer Banks connects to a peninsula jutting into Albemarle Sound, including the town of Powell's Point 4 miles from the bridge. "We consider it part of the Outer Banks even though it's on the mainland," says Day, who notes that the Kilmarlic Club here is popular with second-home owners. A master planned golf community with amenities like tennis and health club "started less than 10 years ago. All are single-family homes, from the mid-$300,000s to the $600,000s."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

4WD Commercial Development rejected by planning board, goes up for BOC approval in May

Commercial Development has always been a wildly unpopular idea in the 4WD off-road area of the Outer Banks. The most recent (and most ridiculous) proposal came before the planning board on Feb 12th, and fetched a resounding NO. Below I am pulling the minutes from the planning board meeting for accuracy on this subject.

PB 10-03 Swan Beach Corolla: Request to rezone 37.36 acres from Outer
Banks Limited Access Residential (RO2) to Conditional District-General Business
(CD-GB). The property is located in Swan Beach, Tax Map, 101 and 101A,
Parcels A,B,C,D,1A,M1 and M2, Fruitville Township.

Brian Plumlee, Mark Bissell, Elizabeth White, Debra Lanucci, Lillie Daniels, Bob
Albrecht, Michael Cherry and Greg Lampy appeared before the board.
Ms. Voliva presented the following case analysis to the board.
Link for case analysis for PB 10-03 Swan Beach Corolla
Mr. Plumlee stated they are asking for conditional zoning meaning they would be
required to follow the conditions set by the county. Mr. Plumlee stated his client
has been paying taxes on this property since 1969 as a business parcel. What
his client is proposing to build is a private beach resort for weekly rentals and
special events. It would include a chapel, fire and rescue station, wellness center
and commercial for neighborhood services. At the south end there would be a
fishing pier. Mr. Plumlee addressed staff recommendations for denial.
• The proposed request is not consistent with the Carova Sub-area Policy:
What they are proposing is an old beach village style development and
clearly these plans can be tailorrd by the county. They will be very small
structures, 900 to 1200 sq. ft. They are looking into the potential of shuttle
service for people using the resort.
• The proposed uses and development plan does not promote compatibility
between the subject property: Having smaller structures is going to be a
better development.
• The intensity of the proposed uses and development plan will encourage
commercial services in the off-road area: The pier will be at the southern end
of the property and the Inn will be at the northern end. The Inn will not
encourage adjoining commercial structures because of shuttling people in.
Currituck County Planning Department
February 9, 2010
Page 11
The fishing pier is to encourage fishing. Mr. Plumlee stated to consider these
two items separately, the Inn and the pier. His client is mostly focused on the
• Vehicular access: Mr. Plumlee stated he hopes they have addressed this
with the shuttle services and they would have to buy their own private
Mr. Bissell provided an overview of the project, addressed the community
meeting comments, and examples of the building styles.
Ms. Taylor asked where in Corolla are the cars are going to be parked.
Mr. Bissell stated the developer has a special use permit for a remote parking
Mr. Wright asked how vehicles or emergency vehicles will pass under the pier
when the water comes up and the height of the pier will decrease as it gets
closer to the dune line?
Mr. Bissell stated this will have to be addressed in the design.
The Board was concerned with more traffic being routed from the beach to the
local roads.
Mr. West asked for clarification on the Inn and individual cottages.
Mr. Bissell stated it is an Inn in multiple structures. Two buildings will have 8000
sq. ft. on each floor with 12 units per floor. It will be operated under single
management. Mr. Bissell stated each unit will have their own individual septic
Ms. Wilson stated that Mr. Plumlee stated that Mr. Friedman is doing this for the
community. She lives in the community and from the community meeting that
was held the community is not asking for this. Ms. Wilson stated that
architecturally it is nice but it is still a commercial development. Ms. Wilson stated
it is setting a precedent because other properties that are currently zoned
residential could put in a request for conditional rezoning for commercial.
Mr. Clark asked if the beach would be open in front of the development so the
public to drive down the beach.
Mr. Bissell stated yes.
Ms. White stated she is a resident of Swan Beach and the president of the Swan
Beach Property Association. The members of the Swan Beach Property
Association are against the conditional rezoning request and are in agreement
with staff recommendations for denial. Ms. White stated this request will lead to
Currituck County Planning Department
February 9, 2010
Page 12
incompatible and disruptive activity and will be detrimental to the general welfare,
safety, health and well-being of their community. The community is not
requesting any of the services in this proposal. The Swan Beach Property
Association is asking that the board deny this request.
Ms. Lanucci stated she is property owner in Swan Beach and is against the
rezoning request because it is a drastic change in the landscape of Swan Beach.
Ms. Daniels stated she hopes the board will deny this request and leave it like it
is. It has worked in the past and hopefully will work in the future.
Mr. Albrecht stated he is against the rezoning request because of the lack of an
adequate infrastructure, septic systems, and not in harmony with residential
nature of the community.
Mr. Cherry stated he is the former president of the Swan Beach Property
Association. Mr. Cherry stated he lives in a house that had been moved and if
the pier was built this would eliminate the ability to do this. Mr. Cherry stated this
project is not in harmony with the residential nature of the community and asking
that the board deny the request.
Mr. Lampy asked the board to deny this request.
Mr. Plumlee stated what is popular is not always right and what is unpopular is
not always wrong. They do believe this project would reduce impacts compared
to the results of residential developments at this location. The pier is not the main
part of the project. This development will not decrease the value of adjoining
properties. This is a lower impact plan. If it is the concern to lessen impacts then
you would adopt this plan, if it is the issue of controlling what is happening at all
times around you then you would reject it, it is as simple as that.
Ms. Wilson stated she has a letter from the North Swan Beach Property Owners
Association, a statement from the C.O.A.S.T. environmental group and the
Corolla Wild Horse Fund in opposition to this rezoning request.
Ms. Wilson recommended denial with staff recommendations and LUP Policies,
OB6, CD5, ES8, ES7, and ES6 to rezone 37.36 acres from Outer Banks Limited
Access Residential (RO2) to Conditional District- General Business (CD-GB).
Ms. Taylor seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.

The final say will be on May 3rd when the Board of Commissioners vote to approve or deny. I cannot see how the BOC will approve so close to an election and without planning board approval in the midst of rewriting the Unified Development Ordinance. Nonetheless, if you have an opinion, it is important to be heard. There are two websites to visit depending on your stance on this issue. If you oppose commercial develpment, you should go here. If you are for commercial development, you should visit here.

Currituck County to develop another Unified Development Ordinance

It seems like just yesterday we decided to rewrite the UDO for Currituck County, but with a new election and a new direction we might as well rewrite the rules too. If I sound a little jaded it is because I am in the 98% of the population that is still trying to understand the rules of the current UDO (I have given up on predicting how the county actually interprets them). Historically, counties start off this process with gusto, setting out with the re-election popular buzz words such as "higher stantards, low impact, improved quality of life, preserving cultural integrity, etc.... I am hoping Currituck can finish with the same resolve they are starting. Citizen input is critical, so if you have an opinion, take the easy online survey and also sign up for email alerts at the county's Code website. This is important people, please participate. Below is an article from the Daily Advance's Toby Tate:

Currituck embarks on UDO rewrite
By Toby Tate
Staff Writer
Friday, February 19, 2010
CURRITUCK — What do Currituck County and Key West, Fla. have in common?

More than you’d think, says Chad Meadows, senior associate for Clarion Associates, a Chapel Hill-based consulting firm hired to help county officials rewrite Currituck’s book of planning and zoning rules.

For one thing, there’s the shared problem of having only one major highway that splits the county.

“You’ve got one main road and that’s your highway,” he said. “That’s got a whole realm of problems wrapped up in it.”

The biggest difference? Key West doesn’t have agriculture, Meadows said.

“That’s really unique to have a coastal component and an agricultural component together,” Meadows said. “We’re excited about the project because it’s such a cool place to work.”

The “project” to which Meadows was referring is the updating of Currituck’s Unified Development Ordinance.

Earlier this week, Meadows facilitated the first of two meetings to provide county residents an opportunity to weigh in on what the revised UDO should look like.

About 30 county residents attended the meeting, held Tuesday at the county’s Cooperative Extension Service building.

Participants were given keypads and asked a series of 35 questions mostly geared toward how developments should look and how eco-friendly they should be. The questions were broken down into two geographic areas: the Currituck Outer Banks and the county mainland.

The assessment of most of those in attendance was that Currituck should pursue low-impact, eco-friendly development with high standards.

Meadows said the survey wasn’t designed to be scientifically representative. However, it is a helpful tool for finding out what residents think about what Currituck’s future should look like.

“We found it very helpful, especially when you’re getting results consistently, when 80 or 90 respondents favor one preference over another,” he said.

The main objectives for the UDO rewrite, according to Clarion Associates, is to ensure the environment is protected, agriculture remains viable, and county residents’ quality of life isn’t negatively affected. The updates are also designed to make the county’s planning codes more user friendly.

The revised UDO also seeks to encourage high-quality development, provide more housing choices and better neighborhoods and to incorporate “sustainable” development practices.

Meadows said his team will be able to show the cost of various development scenarios as a way to help county residents determine which direction should be pursued.

Clarion Associates held a second meeting with citizens Wednesday in Corolla. This week’s meetings won’t be the last, however.

“We’ll be back many times in the future to meet with you guys over various steps in the process as we go,” Meadows said.

“We’ll be back to present what we call a code assessment where we’ll wrap all this stuff up and present it to the community. (It’s) kind of our thoughts on the current code, the plans you want to do, and the differences between the two.”

Meanwhile, Meadows said there are a few problems with the current UDO that need to be addressed.

“We talked a lot about stormwater, we talked about open space and we talked about density,” he said.

“These are big issues in this county. You guys have some serious challenges.”

Meadows said the UDO updating process takes time.

“We’re a year and a half away from having a new code,” he said.

Currituck County Planning Director Ben Woody said the county staff also plan to hold additional meetings with the community.

“Particularly once the code assessment is out there, to review that ...,” he said.

“We want everybody to have the opportunity to participate, or at least be aware of what’s moving forward.”

Woody said residents can follow the progress of the UDO on the Currituck County website

Monday, February 22, 2010

Groups begin applying for permits to conduct Wild Horse Tours

Now that the county is requiring permits for Wild Horse Tour Operators, businesses have to apply and adhere to a set of conduct and ground rules. Hopefully this will improve certain operations that have to date been more destructive than low-impact, and given more responsible tour operators black eyes by association. Below is an article from the Virginia-Pilot's Jeff Hampton:

By Jeff Hampton
The Virginian-Pilot
© February 21, 2010
For the first time, tours to see the Corolla wild horses this summer must have permits, include a guide and must have signs on the vehicles.

Last week, two applicants, including the nonprofit that oversees the herd of about 110 wild horses, were issued the first special-use permits to drive visitors through the four-wheel drive area of the Currituck Outer Banks.

Four others have applied, said Ben Woody, director of the Currituck County planning department.

Commissioners approved the requirement in September.

It's the latest effort to promote safety and good manners on a beach that can become a mix of wild horses, anglers and families playing near the surf.

Meanwhile, horse tours, visitors, locals and construction crews drive through the crowds.

Residents in the four-wheel-drive communities have reported trespassing and reckless driving.

As a membership benefit, the Corolla Wild Horse Fund plans to offer a private tour in one vehicle driven by herd manager Wesley Stal-lings, said Karen McCalpin, director of the nonprofit.

"You're going with the guy who sees these horses on a daily basis," McCalpin said. "It's almost like a National Geographic experience."

The second approved applicant was Wild Horse Adventure Tours.

For-profit companies typically have several vehicles but now are limited according to the amount of parking available at their base.

Once approved by commissioners, permits will have to be renewed by the planning staff in subsequent years. Violators will be subject to a fine up to $500. "It puts everybody on a level playing field," said Jay Bender, owner of Corolla Outback Adventures. "I think it's very positive."

Bender's permit request goes before the planning board before going to the commissioners.

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund holds classes for guides that include instruction on the horses, their habits and rules about keeping their distance. Often ignored is a long-time rule on the beach that people should stay at least 50 feet from the horses.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Horse found dead near Carova Fire Station

In an email from Wild Horse Fund Executive Director, Karen McCalpin, a Stallion was found dead off of Ocean Pearl Road, apparently NOT from natural causes. Below is the early email sent out by Karen, more information will be provided as it becomes available.

A deceased stallion was found about 20 feet off Ocean Pearl Road about a ¼ mile north of the fire station. The horse had been dead for at least three days and was visible from the road. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund is consulting with veterinarians from the Department of Agriculture in Ivor, VA as well as veterinarians from NCSU in Raleigh. No cause of death was obvious but the state of horse and the location of the body did not indicate that it died of natural causes. We will continue to gather information.

Karen H. McCalpin

Executive Director

Corolla Wild Horse Fund

P.O. Box 361

1126 Schoolhouse Lane

Corolla, NC 27927