By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on March 15, 2021
The Dare County Commissioners have unanimously authorized county staff to begin the statutory process of establishing a Municipal Service District (MSD) in the Hatteras community of Avon to help cover the cost of a $11 million beach nourishment project that will pump roughly one million cubic yards of sand along 2.5 miles of beach.
Property owners in those districts will collectively contribute an estimated $750,000 per year over a five-year period through a special tax in an effort to stave off an encroaching Atlantic Ocean that has, during recent storm events, led to chronic flooding that cuts off N.C. 12 and threatened homes in the community.
“We’re at a point where we’re going to do this [and] we’ve got to start a process to create a tax service district — and there’s a statutory process for that,” Outten told the commissioners prior to the vote at the board’s March 15 meeting.
The move by the commissioners signals the board’s desire to move forward with the 2022 project, roughly half of which would be funded through the Dare County Beach Nourishment Fund, with the other half funded by property owners in the community.
Oceanside property owners from Due East Road to the community’s southern border will foot the largest contribution that comes from taxes, paying an anticipated 25 cent tax per $100 in addition to their annual property bill. Westside property owners in the project area will be asked to pay 5 cents per $100 for the sand pumping.
Several steps need to be taken to establish the MSD, Outten explained, including sending notices and maps to property owners as well as holding a public hearing on establishment of the MSD. Those steps take about 60 days. Commissioners will then need to come back to finalize the district and set a tax rate during the budget process in late May or early June.
The proposed beach nourishment plan has attracted significant attention among Avon residents. The county has received hundreds of emails regarding the project and the special tax. During a public information session last month, dozens of residents spoke both for and against the project.
During the public comment period of the March 15 meeting, several residents spoke prior to the vote, offering different views on the subject. One resident said that the proposed district was drawn up “in an unfair and arbitrary way” and would represent a 45 percent increase in her annual taxes.
Another resident praised the commissioners, noting that, “Obviously saving the beach is essential to the entire community, and we are willing to pay our fair share…No one wants their taxes raised, but some things are worth paying for, at least until there’s a more permanent solution.”
It’s natural for people to rail against change, particularly if that change requires moving your home or community. But the natural disaster that finishes Avon is less hypothetical than it is inevitable. If all the money invested in nourishment, fixing roads, and fortifying the dunes were to be used to help people move to firmer ground it might be money better spent. Property would need to be purchased and condemned. Fiscal assistance for the physical relocation would be needed. It would not be cheap. But it would ultimately save money and possibly lives.
There were a few hard heads that clung to their homes in the shadow of Mount St. Helens despite the rumblings and look what happened to them.
Travis, where do you propose the good folks of Avon all move to?
@Hugh The vast majority (99.999999%) of people who live here do not live on the Oceanside. This tax is for sole benefit of tourists who do not like nuisance flooding. Prior to the dunes being built everyone lived with it. The governments fix was dunes, which “fixed” the problem by kicking it down the road.
Time to let’em fall and everyone can be one house closer to the ocean.