Daily Press (Sunday)

Outer Banks developmen­t raises residents’ eyebrows

Frequently-fined plant has raised concerns for plan

- By Corinne Saunders

SOUTHERN SHORES — Concerns about adding more load to a wastewater treatment plant that has been “under emergency operation” for years came to light at a recent meeting of the Southern Shores Planning Board, the second meeting devoted to considerin­g SAGA Realty & Constructi­on’s proposed mixed-use developmen­t at 6195 N. Croatan Highway.

SAGA CEO Sumit Gupta was not at the Oct. 16 meeting, and his team was unable to answer all the board’s questions.

“I’m just befuddled why — until this gets resolved — why we would want to further develop and add more stress to a system that isn’t up and functionin­g properly right now,” planning board member Jan Collins said.

The planning board ultimately will recommend approval with conditions or denial of SAGA’s special use permit applicatio­n for the developmen­t of commercial space and 36 luxury condos to the town council.

Planning Board Chairperso­n Andy Ward repeatedly said the board will be thorough in its review.

The board made no decision in its 3 ½-hour meeting. The applicatio­n review had continued from Sept. 18 meeting. The next meeting is Nov. 20.

Wastewater business

SAGA, doing business as GWWTP, LLC, owns the wastewater treatment plant that services the 38-home developmen­t called Southern Shores Landing, which is next to the property it plans to develop along U.S. 158 between Martin’s Point Road and Landing Trail. That property includes the Ginguite Creek Basin.

The proposed developmen­t’s site plan shows two three-story buildings, which would house 36 luxury condos and retail, office and restaurant space.

The company owns the wastewater treatment plant facility and the property on which it is located, and is “the official permittee” per the North Carolina Department of Environmen­tal Quality Division of Water Resources, said Mike Strader, director of engineerin­g with Quible & Associates, which developed SAGA’s proposed site plan.

The wastewater facility would also service the proposed developmen­t, according to site plan applicatio­n documents.

Under its previous owner, the facility was in “extremely poor condition, and actually it was under emergency operation,” Strader said. “There was no responsibl­e operator in charge, so it was the worst of situations when it comes to wastewater treatment plants.”

When Ward asked if it were under emergency operation today, Strader said he didn’t know.

“That is something that would be wise to know — for you and for us,” Ward said.

As of February, Ward said he saw via NCDEQ informatio­n that the facility was still under emergency management.

Strader noted that it isn’t allowable to add wastewater flow to a system under an emergency operation.

SAGA bought the wastewater retention pond property for $10,000 in November 2015 from the Kitty Hawkbased Ginguite Woods Water Reclamatio­n Associatio­n,

Inc., according to Dare County land transfer records.

SAGA then bought the next-door property with the wastewater facility equipment for $100,000 in March 2017 from the Corolla-based Paragon Utilities, Inc., according to county records.

Gupta has operated the wastewater facility for at least the past 5 ½ years, Ward said, but noted there have been recent state fines for noncomplia­nce.

“Why in the last three years have there been fines levied on what he owns?” Ward asked.

“I do not know the answer to that question,” said Ashley Honeycutt Terrazas of Parker Poe law firm in Raleigh. “This is an issue we are going to have to resolve before the Utilities Commission (or) anybody’s going to let us build anything here.”

She and Strader were part of a three-person team set up at a table to represent SAGA at the Oct. 16 meeting.

NCDEQ Division of Water Resources records show that it has assessed at least seven fines against Gupta’s wastewater treatment facility between November 2020 and March 2022.

Planning board members and residents during public comment shared concerns that the facility has not been operating as intended. They said that since the wastewater spray irrigation system doesn’t function, the pond supposed to be for emergency overflow is the only method being used for effluent.

Mike Mangum, a Southern Shores Landing resident, said the sprinklers haven’t worked in 10 years.

“You’re more than doubling the output of this plant,” Ward said. “We want to make daggone sure it can handle double the capacity.”

“There are still items that need to occur, so there’s further investment­s that have to be made,” Strader acknowledg­ed.

Gupta did not respond to emails requesting comment on his wastewater treatment plant.

According to the Environmen­tal Protection Agency, septic systems can affect an area’s surface water bodies and cause problems if the systems exceed the regional soils’ treatment capacity or are poorly designed, installed, operated or maintained.

“The most serious documented problems involve contaminat­ion of surface waters and ground water with disease-causing pathogens and nitrates,” according to the EPA website.


Nearby residents have pushed back on the project since its inception, and that continued.

Ten of 11 speakers stated opposition to the project for reasons including environmen­tal impacts, traffic and the particular developer.

“The Outer Banks doesn’t always agree upon everything; however, there is a general distrust and distaste for SAGA — and I believe it is because we have all seen what happensinn­eighboring­towns when they build on our beautiful beaches,” said Elizabeth Ryan, a Southern Shores residentwh­ogrewupint­hetown.

Andrea Windle, a Kitty Hawk resident, called the proposal “a whole beach community issue.”

Windle said SAGA’s developmen­t “track record has not been very sunshine and rainbows for many communitie­s,” citing its property issues in Edenton; ongoing litigation with the Town of Nags Head over His Dream Center; and the “cottage courts” in Kill Devil Hills that ended up having more bedrooms than if it had built “two mega-mansions.”

 ?? CORINNE SAUNDERS/STAFF ?? The algae-covered pond of septic effluent is next to U.S. 158, near its intersecti­on with South Dogwood Trail in Southern Shores.
CORINNE SAUNDERS/STAFF The algae-covered pond of septic effluent is next to U.S. 158, near its intersecti­on with South Dogwood Trail in Southern Shores.

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