Travel trailers
Travel trailers, such as this one, provide inexpensive housing on Ocracoke, but they do need to be in compliance with septic, water and electricity. Photo: C. Leinbach

By Connie Leinbach

Travel trailers on Ocracoke present an inexpensive form of housing, but local planning board officials caution that they cannot just be placed on land without complying with two sets of regulations.

Travel trailers must be hooked up properly to water, septic and electricity, said Jerry Hardison, Hyde County building inspector, at the Jan. 12 meeting of the Ocracoke Planning Advisory Board (OPAB).

“You need a permit to set up travel trailers,” Hardison said, noting that he recently noticed two travel trailers on the island out of compliance though he is working with the owners to correct that.

Travel trailers have to be installed under directions of the Hyde County and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) rules because Ocracoke is in a flood plain, he said.

To install travel trailers, property owners need both an Ocracoke Development Ordinance (ODO) and a county building permit.

“There are two different set of regulations,” said Tom Pahl, Ocracoke’s county commissioner.

First, all buildings must have a building permit, and those larger than 12 feet by 12 feet must comply with the North Carolina building code.

Buildings also must comply with the ODO, which was enacted in 1986 to control development on the island. The ordinance also established a local, seven-member board to oversee the work. Pahl served on the Ocracoke Planning Board from 2010 to 2013.

Confusion as to whether or not permits for campers/trailers are needed may have arisen from actions surrounding a controversial amendment enacted in 2012 to the ODO.

That amendment–since rescinded–had regulated the seasonal and permanent living in campers, requiring only one camper per 5,000 square-foot lot, for them to have proper hook-ups to utilities and to be road-ready in case of evacuation. 

Prior to Pahl’s election as county commissioner last year, islander John Fletcher was the county commissioner from 2013 to 2016.

When Fletcher campaigned for the seat, his platform was to eliminate that 2012 trailer regulation, which was enacted while Pahl was on the OPAB.  

When Pahl’s OPAB term was up in early 2013, Fletcher did not reappoint him and appointed five new members to the planning board.  Then in October 2014, the board eliminated the new 2012 restrictions, noting that the FEMA regulations cover the installation requirements.  

When Pahl unseated Fletcher in the March 2016 primary, the members of planning board appointed by Fletcher resigned leaving only Corky Pentz, chair, and Tom Payne remaining.

Before leaving office last year, however, Fletcher made new appointments to this board, including Farris O’Neal, Albert O’Neal, Vince O’Neal, Stevie Wilson and Ashley Harrell.

Now, the OPAB wants to make sure property owners understand that although the 2012 amendment was repealed, rules are still in place for trailer installation.

 “All the other regulations still apply—set-back requirements, elevation according to the FEMA rules, plumbing, electric and water,” Pahl said at the Jan. 12 meeting.  The cost to hook up these utilities alone can be approximately $15,000.

Adequate parking is also part of the local building code, which applies to campers.

The OPAB has been reviewing and revising the ODO as recommended by the state every several years. 

The group is also contemplating whether property owners need to supply a survey along with the building permit application. This cost ranges from $700 to over $1,000. If there is an existing survey there would be no additional cost to the homeowner.

Once the local review is finished, the document will be sent to the North Carolina School of Government for review and the public will have a chance to review it before it goes before the Hyde County commissioners for approval.

The OAPB meets monthly, usually the second Thursday of the month, at 5:30 p.m. in the Ocracoke Community Center.  Meetings are open to the public.

If you have questions regarding this ordinance, you may contact Hardison at (252)-926-4372,

To view the Hyde County building permit information, click here.

To view the Ocracoke Development Ordinance, click here: 






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  1. The reason why people attempt to live in travel trailers that do or don,t meet the criteria is because there is not enough affordable housing on Ocracoke.When i first came here,i was forced to live in an old travel trailer because that was the only affordable housing available.When all there is,is seasonal work but what few rentals that are available expect all year rent,it is very difficult to maintain a residence.To say you can have a travel trailer to live in but make it too prohibitive to set up is typical bureaucratic doubletalk. Working class people are very limited on what they can afford and the problem is not getting better.
    Realtors dnt want them because they can,t justify asking a half a million bucks for a house when yr view is of an old rusty travel trailer,cry me a river!Frankly,because you can,t make yr fat commision isn,t high on my empathy list.
    My empathy is with the infratructure of blue collar workers who just want a decent place to live and are necessary to support the lifestyles of the privleged.

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