Oak Island Town Council unanimously denied a developer’s request for a three-year extension on vested rights for plans for a marina and subdivision at the portion of Seawatch at Sunset Harbor within the town’s zoning jurisdiction.
Seawatch, originally developed by Mark Saunders, is a 2,800-plus acre development off N.C. 211 along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW). About 829 acres is within the extra-territorial zoning jurisdiction of Oak Island; the rest is under Brunswick County’s development rules.
The issue was whether to extend development rights for a marina and one of several planned subdivisions.
Seawatch is considered a “zombie development.” More than a decade after initial permits were issued, there are less than three dozen actual houses. Many other property owners are essentially landlocked from their lots, either by a lack of roads and rights of way or a lack of other essential infrastructure.
Under oath, attorney Elaine Jordan, representing The Coastal Companies, said that some of the permits dated back to 2000 and 2006. She asked for an extension for development of the marina and one of the subdivisions, called “phase 15.”
Seawatch now has about 30 homes, Jordan said.
Other property owners shared their stories.
“We have homes that we can’t build on because we can’t get to our lots,” said one speaker.
Ed Daughtry said he bought three lots, including one on the AICW, and lost about $1-million after working with Saunders designing a home.
“I own three lots. I can’t get to any of those lots but I have to pay (homeowner association) fees,” Daughtry said. “There’s no road there.”
Another property owner said she was promised a marina, beach club, chapel, swimming pool and racquetball court – none of which were built.
Jordan said that the plan was sound but was started at a bad time. She also stated that the developers had made a considerable investment in engineering and planning the marina.
She said the project had “proceeded in good faith.”
The planned unit development was approved in 2006. Staff stated in a memo to council that it would also need approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Division of Coastal Management under the Coastal Area Management Act.
Council seemed to entertain the concept of adding conditions to the approval, but ultimately rejected the request.
In other business, council approved a change in the development rules to allow HVAC businesses in the community business district.