UPDATE JULY 10, 2020: A hearing was held on Wed., July 8, before Judge Rebecca Holt of the Wake County Superior Court on the Southern Shores property owners’ CAMA permit appeal. The judge’s decision is expected in the next two to three weeks. If either party were to appeal that decision, the case would go to the N.C. Court of Appeals.
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This home page has become an evolving chronological ticker tape of news about the litigation to stop mini-hotels and event houses on the Southern Shores oceanfront. If you scroll down through the “tape” to where it starts, you will find a description of the legal actions that were taken to challenge SAGA’s construction at 98 and 134 Ocean Blvd. If you then scroll back up, you will find updates on the litigation and on actions taken by the Town.
The bottom line is that the fight continues to preserve Southern Shores’ low-density character and appeal.
UPDATE 2/8/20: In the interest of economizing, because litigation is very expensive, the good guys recently dismissed the case challenging the Town’s issuance of a zoning permit to SAGA for its mini-hotel construction at 134 Ocean Blvd. The case against the State of North Carolina for its issuance of CAMA permits to SAGA at both locations continues. Please see The Southern Shores Beacon’s 2/8/20 post for the latest news on the litigation. Go to http://www.southernshoresbeacon.com.
UPDATE 10/18/19: On Sept. 11, both of the Southern Shores homeowner-petitioners appealed to the Wake County Superior Court the Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) ruling Aug. 12 that resulted in a dismissal of their consolidated claim. Their attorney chose the Raleigh venue because the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings is located in that city. The attorneys for all of the parties also work in or near Raleigh.
The case, which contests a decision by a N.C. administrative agency–the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality’s issuance of CAMA permits to SAGA for construction at 98 and 134 Ocean Blvd.–was in an administrative court, presided over by an ALJ. Administrative courts are distinct from judicial courts, with which most people are familiar. The Wake County Superior Court is a judicial court, which has different rules than those in the administrative court system.
The petitioners claim in their appeal that the ALJ erred in rendering a decision based on Southern Shores’ zoning ordinances, rather than on the N.C. Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) statute, which directs the State agency to ensure that permits are consistent with the local land-use plan. The petitioners’ appeal is based on an error of law.
Both appeals are currently pending.
UPDATE 8/31/19: The Administrative Law Judge ruled Aug. 12 against homeowners Gwendolyn Snyder Smuts and Marvin Tignor on the consolidated CAMA permit appeal that is explained below. The homeowners have until Sept. 11 to appeal this ruling. We will explain the judge’s ruling and any appeal that may be filed after that date.
UPDATE 8/6/19: Homeowner Gwendolyn Snyder Smuts filed a timely appeal with the Dare County Superior Court of the Southern Shores Board of Adjustment’s 3-2 decision affirming the zoning permit issued by the Town to SAGA (operating as 134 Ocean Blvd., LLC) at 134 Ocean Blvd. Mrs. Smuts has argued that the zoning permit was improper, and should be revoked, because the proposed structure on the site, which is within the RS-1 single-family residential district, is not a single-family dwelling and is, in fact, a commercial property.
The Town of Southern Shores issued a certificate of occupancy on Aug. 1 for the mini-hotel at 98 Ocean Blvd., which has been rented through Carolina Designs since Aug. 3. Town planning employees also affirmed an as-built survey of the project that determined SAGA did not exceed the 30-percent lot coverage restriction imposed by the Town Code.
[6/16/19 NOTE: We have been asked by vacationers who are seeing the No! Mini-Hotels signs for the first time if the reference is to Airbnb rentals. It is not. It is strictly a reference to the contested SAGA structures at 98 and 134 Ocean Boulevard.]
On May 7, 2019, the Southern Shores Town Council enacted into law septic-use and overnight-occupancy restrictions that will prevent future “mini-hotels” from being built (see below), but that does not mean we have to accept the two mini-hotels that SAGA Construction Inc. is forcing upon us now.
This website is the creation of Southern Shores homeowners who are involved in litigation to prevent SAGA from developing its two mini-hotels at 98 and 134 Ocean Blvd.–locations that are adjacent to popular SSCA beach accesses. The mini-hotel at 98 Ocean Blvd. would sit at the busy Ocean Blvd.-Chicahauk Trail intersection. There are two parking lots within walking distance of this intersection, one owned by the Chicahauk homeowners association and the other by the Town.
If allowed to be built, each of SAGA’s structures would have 12 master-bedroom/bathroom suites; 17 parking spaces; a tiki bar; a large swimming pool with a swim-up bar, as well as a kiddie pool; a hot tub; a 14-person home theater; a large recreation room with a pool table, shuffleboard(!), and arcade games; an elevator, and a host of other amenities typical of “event” houses and hotels, including a built-in bar, multiple seating areas with tables and chairs, ping-pong tables, and other party equipment UNDER the house, in unenclosed non-living, but functional space.
Despite the litigation, until a Southern Shores homeowner exposed its marketing, SAGA was arrogant enough to advertise its mini-hotels–which it claims are single-family homes–for rent through Carolina Designs as special event houses, with a maximum of 100 guests each!
Gushed Carolina Designs’ online rental advertisement for “Transcendence,” the proposed mini-hotel at 134 Ocean Blvd., on March 6, 2019: “You won’t find an oceanfront event space like this anywhere else!”
According to the March 6, 2019 Carolina Designs ad for “Aquadisiac,” which is the mini-hotel proposed for 98 Ocean Blvd., this special-event house already had seven weeklong bookings for 2019!
MAKE NO MISTAKE: Just because SAGA has ignored the homeowners’ litigation does not mean that it cannot still be stopped from operating mini-hotels.
SAGA, which owns these two oceanfront properties through investor-group/limited liability corporations (LLCs), has built at both locations at its own risk. Southern Shores Permit Officer Dabni Shelton has warned the agents of the LLCs in writing of this risk.
The homeowner-petitioners, who own property in the vicinity of 98 and 134 Ocean Blvd., are challenging the validity of the N.C. Division of Coastal Management’s (DCM) issuance to SAGA of CAMA permits, which were necessary for it to build on the oceanfront. The Town of Southern Shores had to approve the CAMA permits, as well.
The petitioners argue that the issuance of SAGA’s CAMA permits was inconsistent with the current Southern Shores Land-Use Plan, and, thus, in violation of the North Carolina Coastal Area Management Act, also known as “CAMA.” The Land-Use Plan, adopted in 2012, clearly expresses a commitment to ensuring low-density development, open spaces, and neighborhoods of single-family homes in Southern Shores.
Low-density, they maintain, is not just a question of house size. It is a question of house occupancy, the density of population in a given area.
After the homeowners filed their petitions requesting appeal hearings on the CAMA permits, one of them also filed an appeal of the zoning permit that the Town of Southern Shores issued to SAGA for 134 Ocean Blvd. She argued that the Town’s Zoning Administrator violated the Southern Shores Town Code when he gave SAGA a permit to build its mini-hotel, which is actually a commercial enterprise, in the single-family-dwelling residential district.
Until a 2014 change in the Town Code, the Planning Board and the Board of Adjustment were separate entities that had no overlap of membership. Since 2014, the Planning Board, which regularly collaborates on business with the Zoning Administrator, has sat as the Board of Adjustment, essentially wearing two hats.
The Board of Adjustment held a hearing on the zoning-permit appeal April 26. It ruled, 3-2, in favor of upholding the zoning permit.
We refer you to the 4/29/19 blog on The Southern Shores Beacon for details about the hearing: http://www.southernshoresbeacon.com. The petitioner has 30 days after the issuance of the Board’s written decision in which to serve notice to the Dare County Superior Court that she intends to appeal.
James L. Conner II, an expert environmental lawyer and a partner in the Durham law firm of Calhoun, Bhella & Sechrest, represents both homeowners in the CAMA permit appeals and the homeowner who challenged the zoning permit at 134 Ocean Blvd.
Mr. Conner has advised that if the homeowner-zoning appellant were to prevail in an appeal to the Superior Court of the Board of Adjustment’s ruling, SAGA’s construction at 134 Ocean Blvd. would have to cease.
SOUTHERN SHORES ZONING, CHALLENGES TO SAGA’S CAMA PERMITS
SAGA Construction Inc. is based in Kill Devil Hills and until 2018, when it bought the Ocean Boulevard properties, it had no presence in Southern Shores.
A previous effort by the developer to build a 16-bedroom wedding-destination structure at what was then-64 Ocean Blvd. was defeated when the Town Council enacted a maximum single-family house size limit of 6,000 square feet—before SAGA secured any permits for construction of its mini-hotel.
Less than three years later, SAGA returned with its latest plans. Its nearly 6,000-square-foot mini-hotels, if allowed to be built and occupied, would be the first–and only (see update below)–such residential structures in Southern Shores.
SAGA’s principals know their mini-hotels are not welcome in our town, but they don’t care. They rejected all gestures by Mayor Tom Bennett to reach a conciliation.
Until June 2015, when the N.C. General Assembly changed state law to reduce a town’s power to regulate building design and aesthetics, Southern Shores was able to restrict the number of bedrooms in a house to seven. The Town Council enacted the maximum-house-size ordinance in January 2016 to address the problem of oversized houses, but this limitation did not necessarily prevent high occupancy.
On May 7, the Southern Shores Town Council voted unanimously to enact into law zoning changes that limit septic-system capacity and overnight occupancy in “vacation cottages” to 14 persons. A vacation cottage is defined by its use or rental for “transient occupancy.” (Please see The Southern Shores Beacon, 5/6/19, 5/8/19, 5/9/19, and 5/11/19 for details.)
The Southern Shores Land-Use Plan describes the town, in part, as “a quiet seaside residential community comprised primarily of small low-density neighborhoods consisting of single family homes.”
The Town Code of Ordinances reinforces this vision throughout the zoning chapter. Code sec. 36-202(a) expresses the following intent by the Town in setting up the RS-1 single-family residential district in which the vast majority of us live:
“The RS-1 district is established to provide for the low-density development of single-family detached dwellings in an environment which preserves sand dunes, coastal forests, wetlands, and other unique natural features of the coastal area. The district is intended to promote stable, permanent neighborhoods characterized by low vehicular traffic flows, abundant open space, and low impact of development on the natural environment and adjacent land uses.”
The SAGA properties are squarely in the RS-1 single-family residential district.
If you would like more background about the litigation, please read blogs posted by The Southern Shores Beacon from October 2018 through April 2019 at www.southernshoresbeacon.com.
We are currently awaiting rulings from a N.C. administrative judge on motions that were filed and argued by the State and by the homeowners.
In January, Southern Shores Beacon editor Ann Sjoerdsma set up a GoFundMe campaign for the homeowner-petitioners with a target of $50,000, which was the amount that they felt comfortable requesting then from the greater-Southern Shores community. Visit our GoFundMe campaign page here.
With the additional appeal of the zoning permit at 134 Ocean Blvd., the estimated cost of Mr. Conner’s services has increased, but we have not changed the GoFundMe target.
Please consider giving a contribution of any amount, even just $5 or $10, to support the petitioners’ efforts. If you would like to remain anonymous, GoFundMe enables you to withhold your name. If you would like to make a sizeable donation, please write to Ms. Sjoerdsma at email@example.com, and she will make arrangements.
We thank you very much for any and all contributions.
‘NO! MINI-HOTELS’ YARD SIGNS FOR DISPLAY
We have available for display yard signs that read NO! MINI-HOTELS and refer to this website.
If you would like to post a sign in your front yard, please request one through the Contact page of this website, and we will deliver one or more to you within a day’s time. Please remember to include your street address.
The more visible your yard is to people who drive through Southern Shores, the better.
But, regardless of where you live and how much traffic passes on your street, your display of the NO! MINI-HOTELS sign shows your opposition to SAGA’s mini-hotels and your support of the homeowners who are fighting them.
If you would like to see what the sign looks like, please click on the “Signs, Etc.” link above.
THANK YOU!!! Working together, we can preserve the legacy of our town’s founder and prevent over-development on the oceanfront and elsewhere. Southern Shores is a community of single-family homes, not high-occupancy mini-hotels. No mini-hotels should be tolerated.
Posted January 2019; revised March-April 2019; revised 5/8/19, 6/16/19; revised in late 2019-20.