Neighbors of the old Coast Guard housing in
Buxton are concerned about development
By CATHERINE KOZAK
Developers who have contracted to buy the housing complex at the former
Coast Guard base in Buxton are renewing promises to keep the
community’s concerns in mind as they plan restoration of the property.
Neighbors of the long-abandoned base came out in force at a public
hearing on a zoning change request held by Dare County earlier this
month to express their trepidation about the future use of the 45-unit
“We were a little surprised,” Jim Pereira, spokesman for Sylakama, LLC,
a Virginia Beach acquisition group, said in a telephone interview. “We
were not expecting there to be so much opposition.”
After listening to the public’s concerns about the project, “Cottages
at the Cape,” the Dare County Board of Commissioners agreed to table
the issue until May 21.
Pereira said that the family-owned company wants to be a good neighbor
and be an asset to the community. He said representatives of the
company plan to meet with neighbors before May 15 to discuss the
specifics about their updated plans.
“We don’t want this to be pushed through and really affect the value of
our homes,” said Chris Wade, a homeowner for nine years in neighboring
Diamond Shoals Estates who had attended the hearing. “We’d like to see
them conform to our neighborhood just like everybody else does.”
Wade said that standing stormwater at the complex after heavy rain
creates overwhelming mosquito infestations and overflows into their
subdivision. Photographs taken last winter after a rainstorm showed
huge ponds of water at the complex and flooding in nearby streets and
yards at Diamond Shoals.
“It’s incredible, the amount of water,” she said. “It doesn’t just disappear. It’s there for weeks.”
The neighbors are seeking more information on the project, Wade said, to determine the best way to respond.
Last December, the Coast Guard accepted a bid of $2,625,000 from
Sylakama for an as-is sale. As they went about addressing a checklist
of items necessary to close the deal, Pereira said, the developers were
informed, much to their surprise, that the site had no operating water
system, a requirement to secure a bank loan.
The closing date on the property has been moved to July.
After the Coast Guard issued a special permit, the company restored the system.
Engineers are in the process now, Pereira said, of developing “a more
formal approach” to stormwater management and wastewater treatment at
the site. Meanwhile, they are seeking to change the zoning from Natural
Historic to Buxton Natural Historic to allow duplexes and family
housing units at the site to be in compliance. Current zoning
does not allow multi-family units.
at the hearing objected to zoning being changed to accommodate the
developers, but Pereira said the proposed change is similar to being
grandfathered, except they want to be able to rebuild after a storm if
the buildings are more than 50 percent damaged. The actual footprint of
the units would not change, he said.
While neighboring residents expressed skepticism, they are open
to a well-done project that addresses their worries about the
“Of course, we would like something nice to be done with that
property,” said Diamond Shoals homeowner Sue Jasinski. “But we want it
to be done respectfully, and not abuse it and not overuse it.”
Engineers and consultants for the company went to the 8.16-acre site
last week to look at ways to manage drainage and waste disposal,
Pereira said. A recent survey, he added, found that the acreage was a
little more than previously thought.
A combination of methods is being considered to control stormwater, he said.
One that is obvious is re-establishing the drainage system already in
place on the complex’s 23 buildings, which are all guttered. As
it was designed, the rainwater flows from the gutters into one of 16
stainless steel 1,500-gallon cisterns, which are above ground
underneath the buildings and still in good condition. Each of the
cisterns has a pump that directs the water to an irrigation
Pereira said that the gutters are no longer directing rainwater to the
tanks, and it is instead flowing freely under the houses. But
once the system is restored, it can collect 24,800 gallons of rain
during a storm.
“It’s not a new technology at all,” Pereira said. “But it’s an
effective technology to deal with some of your stormwater. It will take
care of your average storm.”
Other potential management techniques include construction of a fresh
water retention pond at the rear of the property, surrounded by natural
plantings that discourage mosquitoes. Not only will the pond take
excess water off the property, he said, it will have excess capacity to
hold stormwater runoff. Also, an irrigation system will be
constructed at the lowest portion of the property at the back to feed
water to the rest of the property.
Several methods, or a combination of them, Pereira said, are being
considered for wastewater treatment, ranging from gravity-fed septic
tanks, which do not need much management but take up a lot of property,
to a pre-treatment system that could take advantage of existing
infrastructure but would require more monitoring.
“Right now, the plan is to have it central to the property in the big green area,” he said.
The leach field for the original wastewater treatment facility just off
the beach was destroyed during Hurricane Isabel in 2003, and the plant
was subsequently dismantled and removed. With the dunes flattened,
ocean overwash became a constant threat. The Coast Guard abandoned the
base and the housing complex in 2005 as part of a reorganization.
Eventually, Sylakama hopes to be able to rent units year-round to the
40 or so Coast Guard personnel still stationed on the Outer Banks, as
well as other “groupings,” such as teachers, state and federal workers,
and young executives, Pereira said. The small units are also expected
to be attractive to families looking for seasonal rentals.
As retired Navy officers and former teachers, Pereira said both
he and company owner Lee Pontes are far from greedy developers who care
nothing about the community.
“We’re not going to be absentee landlords ----we’re in it for the long haul,” he said.
“We intend to bring it back, better than it was.”