Reprinted from The Outer Banks Voice.
Less than three weeks after being surprised by the now infamous Dare County affordable housing provision inserted into the state budget, all six Dare County municipalities have signed on to a lawsuit filed against the State of North Carolina challenging that provision.
The housing measure, for which no one has yet acknowledged responsibility, would have restricted the towns’ ability to regulate affordable housing projects funded by $35 million in state money awarded to the county for that purpose. Various town officials have vocally criticized the measure for eroding and encroaching on local authority over development and zoning.
According to Andy Garman, town manager for Nags Head, the complaint, which was filed in Wake County Superior Court Friday, Oct. 6, seeks a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, a permanent injunction and declaratory relief. Four different groups of lawyers, including those employed as town attorneys, are on the complaint on behalf of the six plaintiffs.
A joint statement released by the six towns on Oct. 6 noted that the effect of the budget provision “is to require Plaintiffs to allow these Dare County Affordable Housing Projects to be constructed within a town or area of a private party’s choosing and to be completely exempt from certain zoning and regulatory controls that otherwise apply to all other development of property within Plaintiffs’ jurisdictions…despite the fact that citizens throughout Dare County have expressed strenuous objection to the placement of these Dare County Projects in certain zoning districts and other parts of some of Plaintiffs’ jurisdiction.”
“In this action, Plaintiffs seek a declaration that the Dare County Local Act is a constitutionally prohibited local or special enactment and otherwise violates certain provisions of the Constitution of North Carolina and also deprives Plaintiffs of their property for a purpose other than a constitutionally permitted purpose,” the statement added.
In explaining the process that led to the towns agreeing to be plaintiffs in the suit, Garman said that “Basically, (the town managers) all found out about it on the nineteenth (of September) and we started talking about it among ourselves.” After that, the managers alerted the town boards and municipal councils and boards and brought in the town attorneys.
At the municipal level, the outcry against the mysterious provision was loud and instant, with local officials in all six towns writing letters of protests and/or passing resolutions calling for the removal of the budget item and for Dare County not to enforce it.
Passions on the matter flamed up at an Oct. 2 Dare County Board of Commissioners meeting during a contentious public comment session and a response by Board Chairman Bob Woodard. At the meeting, the county commissioners did move to establish an affordable housing task force that would include representatives from each of the municipalities.
At the same time, the county has consistently stated that it had no knowledge of, nor any role in the insertion of that affordable housing budget provision. At that Oct. 2 meeting, County Manager Bobby Outten told the towns that the county had no intention of “bulldozing” them with large unwanted housing developments — although it’s not clear how much that statement allayed the towns’ concerns.
When asked for a response to the litigation filed by the towns, Outten told the Voice that he was not aware of it. For his part, Woodard declined to make a statement on the subject.
This story is provided courtesy of The Outer Banks Voice, a digital newspaper covering the Outer Banks. Coastal Review is partnering with the Voice to provide readers with more environmental and lifestyle stories of interest about our coast.