Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Horses or Hotel?

On February 9th, the Currituck County Planning Board denied a request by Swan Beach Corolla LLC (owned by developer Gerald Friedman) to rezone 37.36 acres in Swan Beach (the 4 wheel drive area where the wild horses live) from residential to general business. Currently there is no commercial development or businesses permitted in what is known as the RO2 district.

On May 3rd, Mr. Friedman and/or his representatives will present their case to the Board of Commissioners at a public hearing. This is not the first time Mr. Friedman has made this request. In 2004, he requested that 18.88 acres be rezoned to general business. When he was denied the last time, Mr. Friedman stated “The horses have 12,000 acres (actually they have 7,257) and I only have 25.”

What Friedman is proposing for his 37.36 acres is an inn and accessory uses to include a wellness center, indoor and outdoor pools, fishing pier, stores, a helipad, a chapel, fire and rescue station, and most disturbing of all – a corral for the wild horses. The proposal for the inn “limits” the density to 302 units! The proposed name of the inn is Swan Beach Preserve. By definition, preserve means to protect; conserve; safeguard; defend; save; care for. The antonym? Destroy.

Mr. Friedman contends that when he bought the property in 1969, a portion of the tracts were zoned for business. In 1975, the Currituck County commissioners rezoned the entire off road area for residential use only, and now 35 years after that, Mr. Friedman feels that it isn’t fair that he can’t develop his land for business.

The off road area is one of the last underdeveloped areas on the east coast. That doesn’t mean houses aren’t being built, they are. But the north beach is not built to saturation and there is still plenty of land and forage for the wild horses and other wildlife. It is the areas of undeveloped, rugged, unspoiled beauty, frequented by our historic wild horses, that separate this beach from all others. It is up to all of us – residents, visitors, and government to fiercely protect what is left. We must work together to see that every house built is constructed in a manner and size that is respectful of the available resources, eco-system, wildlife, and residents.

A hotel does not belong in the RO2 district. Not now. Not ever. Mr. Friedman has developed a significant amount of Corolla south of the horse fence and still owns a considerable amount of undeveloped property in Corolla. He has made quite a nice living from building hundreds of houses on the northern Outer Banks. When is it ever enough?

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