Developers one step closer to building hotel, driving ranges in Sunset Beach

Developers want to bring new businesses to Sunset Beach with a massive project in one community, and a majority of residents voiced support.
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 5:10 PM EDT
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SUNSET BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - Developers want to bring new businesses to Sunset Beach with a massive project in one community, and a majority of residents voiced an overwhelming amount of support.

“The residents [of Sea Trail] cannot fully support the golf courses,” said HOA president Roz Dahlen. “We need the package play. We need the visitors. As we know, Sunset Beach, the visitors coming in are more and more every year. It’s an excellent opportunity. They have investors ready to go so we’re wanting this to happen because we want to see the improvement to our beautiful community.”

Riptide Builders acquired the Sea Trail golf community in 2020 and has been building on plans for it ever since. In the coming years, the developer hopes to build a number of commercial sites including a boutique hotel, two driving ranges, a resort and a golf cart rental facilty.

Representatives went before town council Tuesday morning to ask for a change to the land use map to allow the project. Council members unanimously approved the amendment, leading to applause from the crowd.

“We’ve been concerned about the status of our golf courses, our commercial buildings,” said Dahlen. “We have a convention center that was closed probably about four or five years ago. We have three golf courses in our community and they’ve also been declining.”

Not everyone, however, is excited about the change. Todd Wilson has lived in Sea Trail for 30 years and he, too, has noticed the decline but he’d rather things be slower-paced than start to feel like the big city.

“Everybody knows why they moved here,” said Wilson. “They moved here because it’s a sleepy little beach town and that’s what they wanted. Although I do understand that growth is going to happen in the area, I feel it can be done in a way that can preserve what we have here now.”

Wilson also worries adding businesses will only make the town’s economy worse.

“If you open the whole town up to be commercial, I feel like it could harm it because you’re taking something that is specific and opening it up to be basically a dime a dozen,” said Wilson.

Wilson says too much commercialization could mean the end for already struggling businesses in the area. Others disagree, saying there are plenty of customers to go around.

“We have more and more residents coming in now — post-COVID, thank God — so I don’t see that being an issue at all,” said Dahlen. “The residents would love to support Sea Trail, would love to go to restaurants instead of leaving our town to go somewhere else to a restaurant.”

The land use map amendment isn’t a total green light for developers to break ground but it does put Riptide on pace to revamp the neighborhood in the coming years.

Riptide applied for a second amendment that also made Tuesday’s agenda. That amendment would change the text in the ordinance involving zoning districts to allow additional uses in the MR-3 zoning district. An approval from council members would allow the following in those areas:

  • Real estate office
  • Professional/Neighborhood services
  • Property maintenance building
  • Restaurant
  • Brewery/Bottle Shop
  • Coffee Shop
  • Wine Shop
  • Ice Cream Shop
  • Book Store
  • Private Library

After lengthy conversations, Riptide requested the item be continued, so no vote was taken.