Southern Shores Council votes to allow indoor exercise businesses in town
By Corinne Saunders | Outer Banks Voice September 8, 2022
The town of Southern Shores has been something of an anomaly among towns in Dare County since its incorporation in 1979: no business centered on indoor exercise has ever been permitted.
But that changed on Sept. 6 when the Southern Shores City Council unanimously approved a Zoning By-law Amendment (ZTA) that opens the door to “allowing group fitness, aerobics, dancing, the arts martial arts, yoga, gym and/or bodybuilding as permitted”. use in the C:general business district,” as deputy general manager and chief planning officer Wes Haskett noted during the meeting.
Haskett and City Council members said this use of commercial space simply hadn’t been brought up before because no one had previously filed ZTAs or thought about including these types of businesses as permitted uses in the over the years.
“We just never got a request because we have such a small business district,” council member Leo Holland said. “It’s the [Southern Shores] Cross here and The Marketplace… and the town was designed specifically to have a small shopping district.
But council members clearly welcomed the idea of passing the amendment.
“It’s a great business to attract to Southern Shores and a good use of commercial space,” Paula Sherlock said ahead of the 5-0 vote.
Mayor Elizabeth Morey said after the meeting that the process was necessary because permitted uses must be explicitly defined in municipal codes, noting that just because something is not on the list of prohibited uses does not mean it is automatically approved.
She also welcomed the passing of the amendment, saying it’s “a great addition to our business area.” These businesses could provide “an opportunity for all ages to do fun activities, if not with this woman, then with someone else,” Morey said.
The force behind the amendment was Mila Smith, owner of Atlantic Dance. She filed the ZTA with the city in July, attended the planning board meeting in August and spoke to the board on Tuesday.
Smith had considered moving her Kill Devil Hills dance studio to Southern Shores as she neared the end of her studio lease, given that the majority of her 175 families live in Southern Shores. But it turns out that she ended up deciding to renew her lease in Kill Devil Hills.
When Sherlock asked her at the September 6 meeting if she would ‘consider moving to Southern Shores now’, Smith said the space she wanted in the city had been rented ‘before we could push this through’ .
“I still wanted to come out tonight to encourage you to pass this amendment on behalf of all the other businesses like mine who could potentially miss out on Southern Shores,” Smith told the board Sept. 6 in a prepared statement. “I am of the opinion that these businesses cater to locals and provide a healthy outlet for children and adults alike. I can only see this as a benefit to the town and to the locals who reside here.
Haskett told the board that “I’m glad Ms Smith was able to get her application through, even though she’s not going to be moving here.”
And Holland expressed hope that with this amendment, more such businesses could come to Southern Shores, especially since The Marketplace has several unused spaces. It would “generate revenue not only for the owners, but also for us in the city, from a tax standpoint,” he said.