OCEAN SHORES — One of the primary new owners of The Villages of Ocean Shores met with citizens and a land use hearing examiner last week to outline several key changes in plans for the recently purchased development at the southern end of Ocean Shores.
In a public hearing on a portion of the plans for a revised retail area within the development, owner Stavros Anastasiou said the new ownership group plans smaller cottages rather than the condo buildings permitted in the original plans. Also, the retail will be a town-square concept with residential living space above the commercial space.
“We’re very proud to be here and we’ll create a project everyone can be proud of,” he vowed at the hearing.
Anastasiou and two other owners on Dec. 31 purchased the 43 acres behind the gates at The Villages after paying $1.6 million for the halted development project.
The property, located adjacent to the Oyehut Wildlife Refuge, includes one existing building of condominiums. The new ownership company is known as Ocean Shores Villages LLC. Others listed in the company’s governing structure are Loch Anderson of Bellevue and Jeffery Foushee of Bellevue.
The property had been tied up in financial and legal trouble after plans to build a much larger gated condo project fizzled. In June, a Montana judge issued an injunction stopping First Interstate Bank’s scheduled foreclosure sale of the property after the Montana bank claimed the previous ownership failed to make payments on loans.
The Villages had been promoted as a seaside gated community with plans for 15 buildings with 36 condo units in each building, but only four condo units were sold after the lender provided about $8.9 million for buildings and infrastructure improvements.
Anastasiou said the condo plans and gated age-restricted concept it was based on would be scrapped for a new planned unit development that will include smaller cottages and attempt to create a Seabrook-like atmosphere, similar to the successful development south of Pacific Beach.
Those changes in plans will be the subject of another hearing April 23 before the Ocean Shores Planning Commission.
Anastasiou, who noted he had been coming to Ocean Shores for more than 30 years, answered all questions about the project in a session that lasted nearly two hours. When the new owners became interested in making an offer, it was fully approved as is with the first building up and the roads all in place, he said.
After a visit to Seabrook, which caters to property owners investing in vacation homes with a town concept developed around walking paths and the surrounding landscape, Anastasiou said the new Villages owners settled on a similar concept with a revised plan for their project.
“We’re trying to build a small community in Ocean Shores,” he said, calling the new plans a “mini-Seabrook” with cottages rather than condos, and far fewer units than what was originally planned.
“We are actually doing a lot less than the previous developer,” he said of the total number of new residential units.
There would be more retail space overall — 30,000 square feet in the new plans compared to 20,000 before — but Anastasiou noted that about 10,000 square feet of that would actually be for residential space located above the commercial space.
The owners might even seek to offer incentives to attract the needed businesses, which he said would likely be a small bistro, a deli or mini-mart, a coffee shop, small restaurant and professional services, such as a yoga studio or office for an architect or doctor.
“We’re not trying to compete with the rest of Ocean Shores,” he said in response to a series of questions about how the new retail would impact existing businesses already struggling over the past several years. “We’re trying to create something for the neighborhood.”
Anastasiou said the financing to complete the project is in place and the retail would be added as needed, and he said he would like to phase in the retail as the market developed.
City Planner Alicia Bridges said the city has asked for a date to have the retail completed, suggesting that it should be developed within a five-year time frame.
“We would like to work with the city and work with the community,” Anastasiou said, noting it might take 2-3 years for the full retail component to develop.
Overall, the new plans will call for cottages instead of 15 four-story condo buildings, which Anastasiou said was “a lot more appropriate” for the area and preserved open space. The new owners, he added, are “very sensitive to the environment and the community.”
“We’re building less than half of what the previous developer had proposed,” he said.
Residents said their main concerns were that business not be allowed to stay open late at night, such as a bar or nightclub, and that any traffic impacts be monitored. Hearing Examiner Ted Hunter said he would take those suggestions and several others into consideration and would make a ruling prior to the Planning Commission’s next hearing April 23.
With smaller cottages and fewer overall units, Anastasiou said he believed traffic would be far less of a problem than in the previous plan, but conceded if there were shown to be a need for better traffic control, such as a four-way stop on Marine View Drive in front of the development, he would support that as “good for the project.”
“We want to create something that everybody likes,” Anastasiou said.
Peter Jordan, a former Ocean Shores mayor who noted his family has commercial property in the city, asked the examiner to “be judicious” in allowing an expansion of retail for that part of Ocean Shores, where two business recently closed (The Shrimp Boat Deli and the restaurant at the Collins Inn).
The project, in effect, creates a greater supply of retail business with an unknown demand, Jordan noted. That could “impact all other commercial properties within Ocean Shores.”
“We want to see this be successful, but we also have some concerns about the negative impact on the commercial properties in Ocean Shores,” Jordan said.