CAROLINA BEACH—On a summer day earlier in the year, a white home with a red roof appeared in a Carolina Beach marina.
It sat on a barge in the water, secured in a slip, in front of homes in the Oceana subdivision. As it obstructed the waterfront view of homeowners, it immediately stirred controversy and became a topic of conversation among the islanders.
Neighbors of the Oceana Owners and Oceana Marina associations submitted a violation complaint June 26 to the town about the house in Carolina Beach Yacht Club and Marina.
While the town approves of liveaboards at marinas, its current harbor and marina ordinance prohibits floating homes — the definition of which is “a house built on a floating platform without means of propulsion.”
That last part, “without means of propulsion,” is crucial.
When investigating the complaint, the town staff found the structure on the barge actually met the definition of a boat, not a floating home.
“We went out there,” said town planning and development director Jeremy Hardison “They put two outboard motors on the back of it and cranked those up and it propelled through the water.. They took it from the dock, then they steered it back.”
It was also registered as a vessel through the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
Four months later, the Town of Carolina Beach is trying to close the “loophole” in its zoning ordinance by prohibiting “floating structures,” rather than “floating homes.” The action should prevent a second house on a barge from traveling down the waterway one day and docking in the beach town.
The town council is expected to take action at its Nov. 10 meeting at 6:30 p.m. Its planning and zoning commission has unanimously recommended adding the language to ban floating structures, following a public hearing last month during which no one requested to speak.
The proposed language defines a floating structure as “a barge-like structure, that is not used as a means of transportation on water but which serves purposes or provides services typically associated with a structure on or other improvement to real property used for human habitation or commerce.”
“Whether they’re a floating home or someone wants to use for commercial purposes or commerce, regardless, they would be prohibited,” Hardison said.
Under the drafted language, a structure could also not classify as a floating structure because it has the capability to move in the water or is registered as a vessel.
Still, the house that currently stands would be grandfathered in. Only if it moved could the town enforce its new regulations onto the structure and forbid it from returning. However, it seems the home will be there long term. Hardison said the owners of the marina expressed they plan to live in it when they’re in town.
The town staff is concerned there could be a growing interest in these types of floating structures in the future. As lots become scarce and more expensive, it is a potential alternative to housing in the area.
Hardison also envisioned entire docks being dedicated to these types of houses on barges. “You could put these on Airbnb and you would have no problem renting them out,” he added.
Olin Furr of Oceana, who signed the original complaint from June, said Friday, “Hopefully, they’ll get them banned, but we’ll have to wait. The town will have to make those decisions.”
He declined to comment further.
The owner of the marina also declined to comment.
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