February 22, 2008
An update on Dare County’s Land Use Plan survey
By AMBERLY DYER
County's Land Use Plan includes management of ocean shoreline
development, including ocean setback standards for building, minimum
elevations for first floor construction, and regulations to prevent
loss of ocean front dunes. This aerial photo was taken in
Hatteras village looking East toward Frisco and one of the most
vulnerable areas on Hatteras Island.
votes are in and tallied -- not for a presidential candidate, but for
the update of the Dare County’s Land Use Plan (LUP).
A survey was sent out to all residents and non-resident property owners
in September. It was also available online to the general public.
So, non-residents were permitted to be involved in a local planning
process used by the elected Dare County Board of Commissioners.
The survey is just one tool to obtain feedback on the LUP. It is
used in conjunction with existing policies and the direction of the
Board of Commissioners. The plan, even when updated is not a
regulatory document, but a policy guide.
The land use plans are mandated for coastal counties under the
provisions of the North Carolina Coastal Area Management Act. All
coastal counties must prepare and update guidelines and policies for
land use within their jurisdictions. These documents
provide local elected officials with a set of guidelines for
development patterns and other land use issues that are important to
Once adopted, LUPs must be updated every five years under the CAMA
regulations. The latest version of the Dare County Land Use Plan
Use was certified by the state Coastal Resources Commission in July,
The LUP applies only to unincorporated areas of Dare County. Incorporated towns establish their own plans.
Results were analyzed and reported to the Dare County Planning Board in December.
Senior planner Donna Creef coordinated the survey and reported the results.
“We started with what needed to be replicated and changed,”
she said. “We will then move to writing and drafting
More than 2,000 people responded to the survey, with more than 20
percent of responders calling Hatteras Island home. This is
significant as the 433 Hatteras residents were 40 percent of the total
Dare County residents responding to the survey and 21 percent of all
Among those designating their property location, 1,183 (60 percent) own property on Hatteras Island.
Assuming that very few respondents own property in multiple villages,
approximately 750 of Hatteras island's non-resident owners responded.
This is 88 percent of all non-resident owners who responded. Even with
a 10 percent degree of error, that’s substantial.
So these results largely reflect the views, priorities, and
frustrations of Hatteras island's residents and non-resident property
There were some issues where large numbers of people agreed.
• 80.9 percent support continuing single family homes as the preferred land use.
• 77.2 percent agree that alternative energy
production, including personal use windmills, should be encouraged.
• 74.6 percent agree that there should be
increased funding to enforce removal of junked vehicles and unsightly
• 72.9 percent support limiting multi-family units to a density of 3-5 units per acre.
• 72.2 percent agree that Dare County should
zone its surrounding water bodies to protect traditional activities and
• 70.8 percent agree that zoning should be
amended to prohibit parking heavy equipment in “residential
• 70.3 percent agree that the
“proliferation of tourist-oriented retail stores” should be
studied for further regulation.
It is also interesting to note those areas where residents and
non-residents disagreed most. Not surprisingly, they concerned
the use of tax revenues, as well as the regulation of commercial
activity. For example:
• 78.1 percent of residents (versus 56.1 percent
of non-residents) support a re-evaluation of current funding of tourism
promotion in favor of spending for quality-of-life issues for residents.
• 73.5 percent of residents (versus 53.3 percent
of non-residents) agree that occupancy and land transfer taxes should
be re-evaluated to allow expenditures for non-tourist and
• 59.1 percent of residents (versus 38.6 percent
of non-residents) want to explore a countywide public transit system.
• 58.2 percent of residents (versus 28.8 percent
of non-residents) agree that single-family homes rented on a short-term
basis should be considered as commercial activity with different
standards for parking, trash pick-up, and water rates.
Overall, the top five “issues of concern” were (in descending order):
• Affordable housing/workforce housing
• Bonner Bridge replacement
• Wetland protection/conservation of natural resources
• Property taxes
• Wastewater/septic issues
The five least important issues were (in descending order):
• Working waterfronts/public access,
• Economic development -- not just tourism
• Prohibited beach driving/ORV use
• The Buxton Woods SED-1 district (revisions and no revisions).
It is important to note these issues, because in some instances, the
data did not give leaders clear directions, and in others they gave
contradictory information. Consider the following examples.
• Affordable Housing/Workforce Housing
o 80.9 percent continue to advocate for single family homes as the preferred land use
o 50.1 percent propose the county evaluate using single family homes as boarding/rooming houses
o 72.9 percent want multi-family structures to be at density of 3-5 per acre.
• Wetland protection/conservation of natural resources
o 47.3 percent agree that Dare County should support
efforts by the state to limit the installation of bulkheads
percent agree that current federal regulations to protect wetlands are
o 51.2 percent disagree that Dare County should adopt
regulations regarding land clearing and removal on private property.
• Wastewater/septic issues
o Five questions specifically addressed variations of
private versus public ownership of centralized waste water (on and off
site) with a variety of response. Overall, private ownership was
discouraged, though trying to understand these questions was difficult.
o 53.3 percent disagree that fill in excess of waste-water improvements should remain unregulated
Draft regulations for storm water management by the State Division of
Water Quality were a hot topic at the time of the survey. While
Dare County commissioners have publicly opposed the implementation of
the current draft, a number of questions provided a variety of feedback.
o 36.8 percent have no opinion on current state
regulations of storm water runoff. 35.2 percent believe that they
were inadequate and 28.3 percent believe they are sufficient.
o 60.2 percent agree that 30-foot setbacks along ditches and canals connected to waterways are adequate.
o 65.25 agree that the county should establish and
fund a full-time storm-water management and ditch maintenance
o No clear majority (each category under 40 percent)
agrees on the status of current lot coverage standards. 39.6
percent believe that the issue should be re-evaluated.
Relative to the “bottom five issues,” more than 65.1
percent of respondents agree that the county should resist efforts by
the federal government to further restrict beach driving on federal
Additionally, 81.3 percent of respondents either disagree or have no
opinion on the issue of whether the county should work with the state
to re-evaluate regulations concerning the SED-1 zoning of the Buxton
With all of this information, the Planning Department finds the survey
results supports the status quo and the commissioners’ approach
to current land use policies policies. This should expedite the
The next steps of the process include more detailed discussions of each
area. For example, at the February Planning Board meeting, there
was a discussion of environmental constraints, an important issue when
dealing with wetlands and water quality.
Creef is pleased with the progress of the LUP process. “We’re moving along,” she says.
Planning Board meetings are open to the public. Hatteras Island is represented by Beth Midgett and Dan Oden.
The public will have additional opportunities to provide feedback, but
comments may also be sent to the planning board. These avenues
remain open as the survey did not address every question covered by the
LUP, including issues raised in public informational workshops, such as
commercial building design standards, lighting, landscaping or sign
control as designated in the 2003 LUP.
Click here to see a breakdown of answers to the Land Use Plan Survey