Affordable Housing Shortage Creates Camper Dilemma for Exmore

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By Stefanie Jackson – The Exmore Town Council at its July 11 meeting was made aware of an issue stemming from a lack of affordable housing on the Eastern Shore: residents living full time in campers, which is prohibited by town code.

Town Manager Robert Duer called the issue a “hot potato” because he has been receiving complaints about people living in campers, but their options are limited due to the housing shortage.

Duer said there’s “no easy answer” to the problem and asked the Town Council for advice.

Taylor Dukes, Exmore’s zoning and utilities director, noted the town’s ordinances do not allow visitors or residents to stay in campers, either temporarily or permanently.

Town Council members were amenable to permitting visitors to stay in campers for a short period but agreed campers should not be used as permanent residences.

Duer suggested the Town Council may consider enacting an ordinance allowing a person to stay in town in a camper for a limited time – for example, no more than 28 days, like a short-term rental home.

Mayor Douglas Greer was satisfied with the existing ordinance that prohibits dwelling in campers, but Dukes cautioned, “with the housing shortage and house prices through the roof, it’s become affordable housing.”

Duer said town staff will make a recommendation to the Town Council at one of its next meetings.

Dukes also told the council members to expect a discussion on tiny houses in the future. A tiny house is typically 400 square feet or less and can serve as an affordable housing option for an individual or small family.

Dukes noted that a tiny house is technically a mobile home because most tiny houses are built on trailers.

Sewer Funding Update

Exmore officials continue their efforts to line up funding for the town’s upcoming sewer project, which will include a complete replacement and expansion of the collection system so the entire town can receive sewer service.

The Town Council will hold a public hearing Sept. 12 on its plan to borrow $3.2 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help pay for the sewer project. Exmore’s objective is to keep its borrowing to a minimum and fund most of the project with grants from various sources.

Duer confirmed that Exmore will receive a $3.5 million grant from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which was included in the two-year state budget. The town is still waiting to receive the letter of notification of the grant award from DEQ.

The office of Congresswoman Elaine Luria announced July 12 that Exmore will receive $750,000 in federal funding for the sewer project “to provide service for affordable housing units, apartments, and commercial buildings,” the press release stated.

About 85,000 feet of sewer lines will be installed throughout Exmore “for additional commercial and residential growth without impacting open space and environmentally sensitive areas” of Northampton County, the release continued.

The $750,000 in federal funding awarded is a fraction of Exmore’s original request of $3 million, and as of Monday, town officials had still planned to pursue the remainder of the requested funding.

Dukes remarked that authorities at the federal level “don’t know if we really need the money, but they want us to hook … all the houses up. So, I told them if they want us to do that, we’ve got to have $3 million; $750,000 is not going to do it.”

Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act

The Town Council voted unanimously to adopt a corrective action agreement from DEQ directing Exmore to update its Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Overlay District map to define its Resource Management Area and Resource Protection Area.

Dukes said the update pertains to about 5% of one parcel west of U.S. Route 13 and will affect any developments in that area.

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