Southern Shores sets 6,000 sq. foot limit on new houses

Southern Shores has decided to keep things simple by limiting the size of new houses to 6,000 square feet.

In approving the change to its ordinance Friday, the Town Council opted against several other options, including a tiered system based on lot sizes that would have allowed up to 8,600 square feet of enclosed space.


Measures to block construction of  big “event homes” have been under discussion since word got out on plans for a 16-bedroom house with a ballroom on Ocean Boulevard. That was not long after the state enacted a new law barring towns from limiting the number of bedrooms.

Until the new state law was passed, Southern Shores had limited construction to seven bedrooms and septic capacity for no more than 14 people.

Larger homes to accomodate wedding parties and receptions have become more popular on the Outer Banks, and it was apparent that the 16-bedroom house was aimed at that market.

Town Manager Peter Rascoe said about 14 houses in Southern Shores are more than 6,000 square feet. The average townwide is 2,443 square feet. The town recorded 149 houses between 4,000 and 6,000 square feet, he said.

Already on the town’s books is a regulation that restricts event venues to the commercial district. Other than small changes in language, the council kept the rule in place. Under it, a house advertised as an event home could not be built or operated in a residential zone.

The council also changed parking specifications to base them on septic capacity rather than numbers of bedrooms.

Duck has passed an amendment to its ordinance that sets occupancy numbers based on the size of a lot and septic capacity.

Nags Head eliminated its maximums on bedrooms and kept square footage limits that have been in place since 2003 — an absolute maximum of 5,000 square feet and 3,500 square feet on lots less than 16,000 square feet.

Kitty Hawk does not have a bedroom limit. Kill Devil Hills has discussed whether to set limits on size but has taken no action.

The vote in Southern Shores was 3-2, with Gary McDonald, Fred Newberry and Leo Holland voting for and Chris Nason and Mayor Tom Bennett against.

source: Rob Morris, Outer Banks Voice


Report: Bankrupt luxury catamaran builder headed to auction

Gunboat, the builder of multi-million dollar, high-performance catamarans that located in Wanchese nearly four years ago, then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last fall, is reportedly going up for auction.



The marine industry publication reported Monday that the company has made a motion with the bankruptcy court for a stalking horse bidder.

“The debtor seeks to sell the assets free and clear of all liens, claims, encumbrances, interests and any other rights,” said court documents cited in the report.

Typically, a stalking horse bidder is someone chosen from a pool of bidders by the bankrupt company to make the first bid in an effort to avoid bids lower than the value of the company’s assets.

Gunboat set up shop in the Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park in spring 2012 and was one of the few companies in northeastern North Carolina that met employment goals set out when it received a grant from the state’s “One North Carolina” economic incentives program.

Johnstone blamed a series of mistakes, disputes and adverse business conditions for the company’s struggles over the past two years.“In a period of non-stop accolades and introduction of several terrific new models, Gunboat has been quietly struggling behind the scenes for nearly two years,” said founder Peter Johnstone in a statement issued in November.

Chief among them was that the ramp-up of production in Wanchese took longer and cost more than expected and the highly-publicized abandonment by the owner and crew of the Gunboat 55 Rainmaker 200 miles of Cape Hatteras in Cape Hatteras.

Other problems, he said, included sorting out issues between Gunboat and the Chinese builder of the Gunboat 60 Series, and the recent collision of a G4 with a photo boat during a magazine test in Annapolis, Md., that led to a slowdown in sales of the model.

Gunboat filed suit last year against Hudson Yacht and Marine Industries, which in turn filed a counter claim against Gunboat.

“I could have overcome maybe one or two of these challenges, but certainly not all of these in one short period of time,” Johnstone said in the statement. But he was optimistic at that time the company could recover.

Trade Only Today reported that court documents said Gunboat had between 100 and 199 creditors and assets of $1 million to $10 million.

A list of the largest 20 creditors amounted to roughly $6,025,845 million in claims, and documents filed in December showed that unsecured claims against the company totaled $10,133,947.32, according to the report.


source: Sam Walker, Outer Banks Voice

Grandy golf course may become Currituck’s third solar farm

An abandoned golf course in lower Currituck may become the county’s third solar farm.

San Francisco-based Ecoplexus Inc. is seeking a conditional use permit for its second solar farm, which it hopes to build on the site of the former Goose Creek Golf and Country Club at 6562 Caratoke Highway in Grandy.

The company has nearly completed a solar farm in Shawboro and will sell electricity to Dominion North Carolina in the near future, said Tammie McGee, a spokesperson for Duke Energy Renewables, a division of Duke Energy.


Duke Energy Renewals owns and operates the Shawboro site, and will also be the owner/operator of the 2,034-acre solar farm currently under construction south of Moyock. The Grandy solar farm will be Duke Energy Renewals’ third in the county.

“We’ve had very good working relationships in Eastern North Carolina,” McGee said. “There’s really good solar resources there, which are surprisingly better than Florida,” she said, adding that Florida’s frequent afternoon showers limit the available sunlight.

The company enjoys an good relationship with landowners, she added, as the lease payments help them hang on to their property. Solar farms also help utilities meet state mandates for renewable energy, she added.

If approved, the 20-megawatt solar farm in Grandy would cover about 118 acres of the 121-acre parcel and produce energy for an average of 1,900 local homes, according to the proposal submitted to the planning board by Ecoplexis. The North Carolina Utilities Commission give its approval for a 19.99 megawatt photovoltaic electricity generating facility at the site in January 2015.

Initially, the company considered a “solar park,” for the now-fallow golf course, with public walking trails or greenways around its perimeter. However, at a community meeting in May, adjacent property owners objected to the idea of a public park, citing safety concerns, according to the planning department’s notes on the meeting.

The meeting was one of two held in the tasting room of Sanctuary Vineyards. Invitations were mailed to 70 adjacent property owners, and about 50 people attended the first meeting. Nathan Rogers, project development manager, and Halsey Kedrick, senior project manager, attended as representative of Ecoplexus. Jim Owens, the property owner, was also present.

Additional concerns were focused on the impact to property values and aesthetics during the first meeting, but Rogers said there was no evidence of solar farms in the state negatively impacting property values.

According to the plan submitted to the county’s Planning Board, the approximately 5 acres of road frontage zoned for general business along Carotoke Highway will be subdivided for future commercial development. Ecoplexus hopes to use the existing stand of trees along the property’s other borders to meet part of the county’s vegetative buffer requirement and intends to add plantings where necessary. Some trees on the interior of the site will have to be removed, and the course will be graded and leveled before construction begins.

At the commissioners regular meeting Jan. 4, the board approved changes to the unified development code that would reduce setback requirements for solar farms from 300 feet to 100 feet in some cases.  Solar farms would have to abide by the 300-foot requirement if the solar farm is adjacent to homes, schools and other places where people gather.

In addition, a conditional rezoning will also now be required for solar array use, and the use will only be allowed in a district zoned for agriculture.

Warren Wilgus, who lives near the solar farm going up in the northern part of the county, was the only person who spoke up during a public hearing on the changes to the ordinance. However, his concerns regarded the project in Moyock, where he complained about light and noise from the construction.

The company promised to build berms, but hasn’t, he said. After some discussion, the general consensus was that trees planted on top of berms wouldn’t survive, and the company would complete the landscaping nearer the end of construction. The commissioners did say they would look into  it, however. Night work on the site ended Dec.31.

A public hearing on the Grandy Golf Course project will likely be scheduled for early February.

source: Dee Langston, Outer Banks Voice

Nags Head Inn to reopen as Holiday Inn after renovation

The Nags Head Inn at Milepost 14 has been purchased by a Virginia Beach company and will receive a facelift before it re-opens in April as a Holiday Inn Express.

Coastal Hospitality Associates bought the 100-room hotel in December from John Norkus of Houston, Texas and has begun renovations to its interior.

The group owns seven hotels on the Virginia Beach oceanfront, according to company spokesman Russell Lyons. It previously owned the Comfort Suites in Buxton and converted the Holiday Inn Express in Hatteras Village into the Villas at Hatteras Landing in the mid-2000s.


“We’re excited to be in the Outer Banks market again with this new ownership,” Lyons said.

Norkus was one of the original developers and owners of the inn, built in 1988 on more than 4 acres of oceanfront along S. Virginia Dare Trail. The hotel’s webpage cites it as the only Outer Banks hotel that features that amount of acreage on the ocean.

Norkus could not be reached for comment, but Lyons said the developer had “quite a love of the Outer Banks.”

Under Coastal Hospitality Associates, the hotel rooms and all the public spaces inside the building will undergo a full renovation. A fitness center and laundry area will also be added.

Exterior renovations will include some minor architectural changes and the installation of signage to reflect the Holiday Inn Express brand. Lyons said the exterior changes will be “very tasteful, using neutral colors.”

“The exterior will be very similar to what it is now and we are very conscious of the look of the Nags Head community and the changes will reflect that,” Lyons said, adding that all changes will be conservative in nature.

Lyons added that a majority of the furnishings from the hotel were donated to the South Hampton Roads division of Habitat for Humanity.

The company declined disclosing the sale price, but according to Dare County tax records, the property and building are valued at $6.8 million.

In the past, the hotel has traditionally closed after Thanksgiving and re-opened after the new year.

The hotel’s longtime general manager, Sue Hogan, will continue in that position, and Lyons said his company is encouraging former employees to apply again. A job fair to staff the hotel will be held in the next few months.

All the necessary permits have been obtained for the work, according to Nags Head Deputy Town Manager Andy Garman.


source: Michelle Wagner, Outer Banks Voice

Transportation board OKs speed-up of Mid-Currituck Bridge

The North Carolina Board of Transportation voted Thursday to speed up the construction timeline for the long-proposed Mid-Currituck Bridge between the mainland and Corolla.

The board also gave approval to accelerating planning for additional travel lanes on U.S. 158 from the Wright Memorial Bridge to Whalebone Junction in Nags Head, and for improvements of the U.S. 158/N.C. 12 intersection in Kitty Hawk that could include an interstate-style interchange.

The amendments to the 2016-2025 State Transportation Improvement Program, which dictates NCDOT projects for the next decade, came about from changes instituted in the state government budget approved in 2015.


“The reforms I signed into law will get these roads built sooner,” Governor McCrory said. “The primary purpose of the reforms was to ensure transportation funds were being spent on transportation projects and not diverted to other state programs.”

“I want to thank Governor McCrory, Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson, Representative Bob Steinburg and Senator Bill Cook for recognizing the importance of advancing these projects and bringing needed transportation improvements to northeastern North Carolina,” said Board of Transportation Member Malcolm Fearing. “These projects will not only bring jobs to our community, they will also improve the quality of life for those who call this region home.”

The schedule for construction of the Mid-Currituck Bridge over the Currituck Sound has been accelerated from Fiscal Year 2019 to 2017 at a cost of at least $410 million.

The state would kick about $173 million in for initial planning, design work and right-of-way acquisition, and the rest would come from the sale of bonds that would be paid back using tolls.

In November, the state Board of Transportation granted a request for $5.7 million from the state’s Highway Trust Fund, which is supported primarily by revenue generated by North Carolina’s motor fuels tax, to pay for purchase of a 7-acre tract in Corolla that will be the eastern landing of the bridge.

The additional lanes for Croatan Highway and the interchange project at the Aycock Brown Visitors Center are unfunded and are subject to prioritization in the next STIP.

But right-of-way acquisition has been placed on the current STIP schedule for fiscal year 2024 for the intersection and fiscal year 2025 for the bypass expansion.

For NCDOT’s Division One, which includes Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hertford, Hyde, Martin, Northampton, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington counties, nine new and accelerated highway projects, 16 new and accelerated aviation projects such as land purchases, runway and taxiway construction, and two ferry projects including a new River-Class ferry, as well as a new tug.

The state budget included additional funding for transportation through the elimination of the transfer from the Highway Fund to the General Fund and through other fee and rate changes resulting in an additional $1.6 billion over the next 10 years for transportation construction.

The department followed the Strategic Transportation Investments (STI) law to identify new projects (either segments or entire projects) at the statewide, regional and division levels. The projects were identified from those previously scored based on the same weights and criteria (data) used to develop the 2016-2025 STIP.

source: Sam Walker, Outer Banks Voice

Snow & icy roads on the OBX

Winter brushed the Outer Banks with light snow overnight, and the National Weather Service has issued a weather advisory for icy roads in Dare County until later this morning.

Dare County Schools initially delayed opening for two hours, then decided to close for the day.


A few more flurries are forecast for this morning before temperatures  rise out of the high 20s. But the rest of the day won’t get a whole lot warmer. The sun is expected to come back out with highs reaching about 39 degrees.

North wind will be 22 to 29 mph, with gusts as high as 40 mph. The wind chill will be as low as 15 degrees.

The worst of the snow and ice snow was along the coast and north of Oregon Inlet.

A warming trend will start Wednesday under sunny skies and high temperatures near 53. Thursday and Friday will see temperatures reaching 60 degrees with chances of rain increasing into Saturday.

source: Rob Morris, Outer Banks Voice

Why there’s a pocket of Britain on the Outer Banks

A Union Jack still flies on one piece of American soil.

Two hundred and fifty years ago, the entire Atlantic coast from Maine to the Florida border was British soil. Then, of course, a hard-fought revolutionary war founded a new nation and sent tens of thousands of “redcoats” packing for home. But there’s one spot on the Atlantic coast that still honors a heroic group of British servicemen—and, despite the events of Saratoga and Yorktown, it’s still a tiny island of British soil, even though it’s surrounded on all sides by rural North Carolina.

The Outer Banks are full of ghosts from the Battle of the Atlantic.

Today the barrier islands of the Outer Banks are a quiet and picturesque backdrop for beachcombing vacationers. It’s hard to believe that just seventy years ago, the sea here was a naval graveyard. From 1942 to 1945, German U-boats lurked off the Carolinas, sinking more than 400 ships and killing 5,000 sailors in an offensive that German sailors called the “Great American Turkey Shoot.” No wonder Allied vessels who braved the Outer Banks called it “Torpedo Alley.”

Five British soldiers never made it home.

Because the U.S. had no anti-submarine patrol, the British Royal Navy sent 24 ships to safeguard shipping along the eastern seaboard. On May 12, 1942, the HMS Bedfordshire was struck by a German torpedo and went down with all hands. Citizens of Ocracoke, the tiny Outer Banks island where Blackbeard the pirate had died in 1718, buried four British sailors whose bodies had washed ashore. Over on neighboring Hatteras Island, locals had quietly buried a British sailor from the SS San Delfino near the Buxton Lighthouse the month before. A fifth Bedfordshire crewman was laid to rest by his side when his body was discovered a few days later.

Every year, the Queen sends a new flag to fly over Ocracoke.

After the war, Britain’s Commonwealth War Graves Commission began building cemeteries for the country’s war dead who had fallen overseas, eventually erecting over 350,000 new headstones in continental Europe and around the world. The two makeshift burial plots in North Carolina were leased in perpetuity to the War Graves Commission, making them, for all intents and purposes, British soil. A huge Union Jack still waves there proudly.

A white picket fence surrounds 0.052 acres of England.

The cemetery on Ocracoke Island is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard, while the National Park Service tends the one on Hatteras. Every May 12, the sinking of the Bedfordshire is commemorated with a solemn graveside ceremony. Royal Navy sailors lay wreaths on the graves, while local villagers read the names of the dead in the distinctly Gaelic-derived brogue of Ocracoke Island. A bugle call of “Taps” is followed by a 21-gun salute. Visitors might recall Rupert Brooke’s words in in his famous 1914 poem “The Soldier”: “There’s some corner of a foreign field that is for ever England.”


source: Ken Jennings,