By Stefanie Jackson – Northampton supervisors not only have denied a special-use permit to build tourist cottages in lower Northampton County but have now entirely removed the term and use from the county zoning ordinance.
Angelo Manuel, long-time employee of local real estate broker Bill Parr, had applied to build six tourist cottages on farmland near Kiptopeke State Park, but the application caused a controversy related to housing density, leading county supervisors to deny the application in March.
The county zoning ordinance was unclear whether or not Northampton’s rules on housing density should apply to tourist cottages, which are not intended for permanent residence.
Northampton’s housing density limit for agricultural-zoned land is one home per 20 acres.
Even though the tourist cottages would have been tiny – 490 square feet each – and they would have been rented out on a seasonal, short-term basis, each was designed with a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen, qualifying it as a “dwelling unit,” meaning housing density limits should apply, Supervisor John Coker and others had pointed out.
Northampton supervisors proposed the zoning text amendment that would remove “tourist cottages” from the ordinance, and the Northampton planning commission held a public hearing on the matter May 3.
The planning commissioners unanimously recommended eliminating the tourist cottage term and use from the zoning ordinance, and no citizen spoke against the recommendation when supervisors held their own public hearing on the matter May 10.
Ken Dufty, of Wardtown, spoke in favor of the recommendation and in preserving agricultural lands.
He noted Northampton has agricultural-forestal districts (which are taxed at a reduced rate as an incentive to use land for farming and open space) “so we don’t become Virginia Beach with the third-highest tax in the nation per capita.”
“Once we lose our (agriculture) and our ag-rural character, we can never get it back,” Dufty said.
He called Northampton County “the most unique piece of real estate east of the Mississippi” and thanked supervisors for the work they do to protect it.
Chair Betsy Mapp motioned to approve the recommendation to remove all references to tourist cottages from Northampton’s zoning ordinance, seconded by Supervisor Oliver Bennett, and it passed unanimously.