Nags Head hits signing goal but is short on value

By on November 11, 2010

South Nags Head has become the focal point of the push for beach nourishment. (Voice photo)

In a campaign to assess oceanfront property owners to help pay for beach nourishment, Nags Head has hit the number of signatures it needs but is still short of the dollar value that the law requires.

A petition asking the owners to allow themselves to be assessed reached the milestone last week, with 985, or exactly 50 percent, signing on as of Tuesday.

But those signing have to represent 66 percent of the property value, and the drive is still $164 million short of the $717.9 million threshold.

The town also announced Friday that it received its permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

One of those joining the list was the town of Nags Head. Commissioners — with Wayne Gray dissenting — have agreed to sign the petition, meaning the town will tax itself $64,000 a year for five years.

Nags Head owns $32.8 million worth of oceanfront property at its beach accesses.

The petition requires the signatures of at least 50 percent of the property owners east of N.C. 12 and old Oregon Inlet Road in South Nags Head. At least two-thirds of the property value must be represented.

Owners would be assessed 98 cents per $100 of value over five years, or a little less than 20 cents a year.

The goal is to raise $10 million of the estimated $36 million needed for the 10-mile project. Another $18 million will come from the existing Dare County Shoreline Management Fund with the balance being covered by another 1 percent of the occupancy tax. Raising the tax still has to be approved by the county Board of Commissioners.

The gap between the number of signatures and value suggests that the petition has resonated more with owners in hard-hit South Nags Head. But property along those beaches is generally valued less.

Meanwhile, officials are looking at a maintenance plan that could qualify the town for federal money for sand losses after a named storm.

One requirement of a maintenance plan is to outline where the money would come from, which is still up in the air.

Options available to the board are another special assessment, town property taxes or some other source, such as occupancy taxes, Mayor Bob Oakes told the board of commissioners.

The town has come under some criticism for moving ahead with a petition drive before settling on a maintenance plan.

“This should have occurred before the petition was sent out,” Reed Fisher told the board during public comments at its last meeting.

Oakes and Commissioner Anna Sadler said that the town had worked hard to provide complete information and hold open discussions about the project.

“And I have taken a lot of criticism,” Sadler said. “I will tell you this board has done its due diligence.”

Sadler acknowledged the uncertainties surrounding beach nourishment on the northern Outer Banks.

“Like I told the mayor yesterday, you know if this project is done and half the sand goes away in three years, I don’t think there’s going to be anybody that’s going to be saying we’re going to do a maintenance plan,” Sadler said. “I think it will have proven that probably the Outer Banks is just not the ideal place . . .”

According to a memo from Coastal Science & Engineering, the firm hired by Nags Head to plan the project, re-nourishing the beach with 600,000 to 800,000 cubic yards of sand would cost $7 million to $10 million.

But the memo said that if the town qualified for reimbursement from the federal government after a named storm, the town’s beaches could net as much as another 2 million cubic yards of sand.

The initial projects calls for pumping 4.6 million cubic yards of sand from offshore. The engineering firm based its estimates on an initial project using 3.6 million cubic yards “in case bid prices are higher than anticipated or project funding is somewhat lower than expected.”

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