Development on the Outer Banks: A Case of Public Perception

By Peter Rowe
2015, Vol. 7 No. 09 | pg. 3/3 |


The research highlighted in this work shows that there are differences in the way local residents and visitors in a coastal context (the Outer Banks) view and rate development. The quantitative data showed that while local residents may feel that the Outer Banks as a whole is more developed than visitors think it to be, they (local residents) rated five out of the six towns which made up the study area, as less developed, perhaps due to opportunities for economic advancement. Likewise, visitors rated the Outer Banks, as a whole, as less developed and rated five out of the six towns making up the study area as more developed than the local residents thought them to be.

It was suggested that this could be due to the fact that since visitors vacation in the region, they perhaps consider it a rather rugged, isolated area, relative to where they are from, as most visitors are from the Washington, D.C. metro area as well as the Norfolk/Richmond region (Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, 2006). The qualitative analysis revealed that local residents and visitors view overdevelopment in the region differently, a likely explanation for which is that the two groups value different amenities and services differently, resulting in a different prioritization. This is also noted in Hao et al. (2010), in which it was suggested that permanent residents considered many more qualities to be important throughout the tourism development process than did second-home owners and visitors.

Both the quantitative data and the qualitative analysis prove useful in regards to bettering and guiding development policy in the region. The quantitative data is useful simply because it provides a baseline measure to local policymakers for characterizing a current place on the spectrum of development. Policymakers and planners can now know with some certainty that the Outer Banks, both as a whole and in the six towns individually is moderately to largely overdeveloped, as the average rating given by the entire sample size (n=218) was a 2.21 on a scale from -5 to +5, where -5 is extremely underdeveloped and +5 is extremely overdeveloped. Through this, policymakers and developers might gather that given the geologically sensitive nature of the Outer Banks, in conjunction with a moderately high development rating by visitors and permanent residents alike, steps to prevent or at least slow the pace of development should be taken in order to help sustain the Outer Banks for as long as Mother Nature allows.

The qualitative data is useful in redirecting development as well. Policymakers and planners can now be assured with some certainty that among the two main groups on the Outer Banks (visitors and local residents) exist different values for different development issues and amenities. Policymakers and planners must carefully consider the costs and benefits of catering to both interest groups in addition to prioritizing the physical environment within the development narrative.

While additional development may increase the capacity for tourists and increase economic opportunity, it might also push the Outer Banks further and further down a slippery slope of overdevelopment from which it may never recover. However, limiting development may decrease economic prosperity for the local citizenry, despite the objectives of observing and respecting the natural limits of the region. In sum, the question of how to proceed with development, especially in a dynamic coastal setting, is one which needs to be considered carefully and holistically. Although no definite answers were presented here, I think that the joining of both quantitative and qualitative methods of assessment is a crucial first step to determining the best possible future for the Outer Banks, the people that live there, and the people that wish they did.


I would like to thank Temple University and the Diamond Research Scholars program for giving me the opportunity to pursue this research. Without their funding and support this would not have been possible. I would also like to thank Dr. Robert Mason for his endless patience and continually guidance and support throughout this project. I also owe a great deal of thanks to Mr. Robert McClendon and Dr. Adam Gibson of the UNC Coastal Studies Institute in Manteo, North Carolina, who both provided useful local insight, guidance, support and accountability throughout this project. I also owe thanks to Dr. Fletcher Chmara-Huff, who provided countless edits and guidance in the development of the questionnaire. This research is dedicated to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the people who live there, in hopes that it will in some way help preserve the true beauty of the Banks, which can be found nowhere else on earth.


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This appendix contains a copy of the questionnaire used for gathering the data used in this study.

This survey is intended to gauge perceptions of development along the Outer Banks. Answers or comments made below will remain strictly confidential.

Where is your place of residence? (city/town and zip code)


Over the course of a year, how much time do you spend on the Outer Banks? (Duck to South Nags Head)

a) Less than 1 month

b) 2-4 months

c) 5-7 months

d) 8-12 months

If you are a seasonal visitor (answers “a” and “b” in the above question) for how many years have you been visiting the Outer Banks (Duck to South Nags Head)


If you are a seasonal visitor (as described above), when visiting the Outer Banks, what is the average duration of your stay?


When on the Outer Banks, do you rent or own?


In your opinion, do you think the beaches of the Outer Banks are too crowded?

a) No, not crowded at all

b) Yes, somewhat crowded

c) Yes, very overcrowded

In your opinion, rate the extent of overall development on the Outer Banks, where -5 is extremely underdeveloped and +5 is extremely overdeveloped

-5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3 +4 +5

Using the scale above, please give a rating of development to each Outer Banks town listed below. If you have never been to a town listed below, feel free to leave it blank.

Duck- ________

Southern Shores- ________

Kitty Hawk- _________

Kill Devil Hills- _________

Nags Head- _________

Manteo- _________

In your opinion, what best describes overdevelopment on the Outer Banks?


Do you spend time in any other coastal community along the Outer Banks or east coast?


If applicable, cite an example of a beach town that you feel is well managed in respect to development.


What is your average annual income? (Please select one)

a) Less than $20,000

b) $20,001-$49,999

c) $50,000-$74,999

d) Greater than $75,000

What is your highest attained level of education?

a) Some high school

b) High School diploma

c) Some college

d) College degree

e) Some Graduate/Professional school

f) Graduate/Professional degree

What is your age?

a) 18-25

b) 26-35

c) 36-50

d) 51-65

e) 65+

What is your gender?

a) Male

b) Female



If you have any questions or comments about this survey, feel free to contact Peter Rowe, Robert McClendon, or Dr. Robert Mason.

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