Nestled between the Town of Kitty Hawk and the Town of Duck, is the Town of Southern Shores. Prior to being incorporated as a municipally in 1979, Southern Shores was a piece of the Kitty Hawk community until it was founded as a resort in 1946. According to the Town of Southern Shores CAMA Land Use Plan Update, “The Town of Southern Shores is a quiet seaside residential community comprised primarily of small low density neighborhoods consisting of single family homes primarily on large lots (i.e., at least 20,000 sq ft) interspersed with recreational facilities (e.g., marinas, tennis facilities, athletic fields, and parks), beach accesses, walkways and open spaces. These neighborhoods are served by picturesque local roads (rather than wide through streets) along the beach, in the dunes or in the sound-side maritime forest. The scale and architecture of new development and re-development is compatible with existing homes.”
Standards of the residential community were kept high and town ordinances and covenants were put in place, such as restricting the number of bedrooms in a home to seven and the septic capacity to no more than 14 people. During a town meeting, Ike Sherlock told the Outer Banks Sentinel, “We were attracted and decided to buy in Southern Shores [in 1979] because of your covenants and land use planning.” He then discussed the town ordinances from the 1970’s and 1980’s, which defined the concept of the town on, “A low density, family and residential community with a slow, carefully planned growth.”
A new North Carolina law, that became effective in 2015, prohibits that local government cannot regulate certain building design elements. The law limits local government to restrict design standards on residential construction, thus not allowing the Town of Southern Shores to have a say on the number of bedrooms permissible.
With all the seasonal visitors the Outer Banks draws it is understandable the Outer Banks is an enormously popular wedding destination. To accommodate events, such as weddings and family reunions, some of the towns have allowed the building of event homes with as many as 28 bedrooms. These homes often hold entire wedding parties and even wedding receptions.
With the buzz of an event home being proposed in Southern Shores residents were outraged. The subject property had plans to be built on Ocean Boulevard with 16 bedrooms, a 1,000 square foot deck, and 2,500 square foot ballroom. Residents believed such a property would deface the fundamental personality of the town. However, with the new law in place no longer allowing restrictions on number of bedrooms, the town was forced to assess options for attaining control over larger homes.
One of the apprehensions with such a sizable home was the safety and traffic it would procure with a larger number of guests staying in the home. Sprinkler systems and marked exits are requirements for commercial buildings; nonetheless, despite the size of the home, these safety precautions would not be required due to the residential class. According to the Outer Bank Voice, “Already on the town’s books is a regulation that restricts event venues to the commercial district. Other than small changes in the language, the council kept that rule in place. Under it, a house advertised as an event home could not be built or operated in a residential zone.”
Good news came to the residents of Southern Shores at the end of January with the decision to limit the size of new houses to 6,000 square feet. The town council made the decision after weighing out other proposed options being the town was no longer allowed controlling the amount of bedrooms. Along with the decision regarding square footage, the council also replaced the parking specification to no longer reflect the number of bedrooms but instead base it on septic capacity, the Outer Banks Voice reported.
As for the other towns on the Outer Banks, ordinances vary heavily. The towns of Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills have no limits. The Town of Nags Head has a maximum of 5,000 square feet and on home sites less than 16,000 square feet, a maximum of 3,500 square feet. These square footage laws have been in place since 2003. North of Southern Shores, the Town of Duck has added an amendment to their ordinance that factors home site size and septic capacity to determine occupancy numbers.