Coastal Resources Commission and Rules Review Commission at odds over Jockey’s Ridge

By on January 10, 2024

Nags Head Mayor Ben Cahoon delivers remarks during public hearing on the removal of CRC rules. (Photo credit: Kip Tabb/OBV)

The state’s Rules Review Commission and Coastal Resources Commission are battling over the status of Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head.

The park is a state designated Area of Environmental Concern (AEC), but an Oct. 5 decision by the Rules Review Commission threatens to remove that designation. On Jan. 9, the Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) held a meeting in Dare County to solicit public comments on its efforts to retain the AEC designation.

Advocates for the AEC designation assert that it offers important benefits and protections for the park. As one example, sand that migrates off the state property is put back on the dune as a way to maintain the volume of sand the dune needs. It cannot be gathered and moved to a new location or sold.

During the Jan. 9 meeting, Nags Head Mayor Ben Cahoon spoke of how important it was to act quickly. “It’s not hyperbolic to say that the need to act is urgent,” he said.

He went on to describe how an AEC works to protect an environmental treasure, noting that “An AEC requires a closer examination of proposed activities and intervention and gives everyone time to fully consider the consequences of a particular act,” he said.

In addition to being part of what protects Jockey’s Ridge from development, the AEC designation carries with it national attention.

“It’s [Jockey’s Ridge] what’s called a National Natural Landmark, which is designated by the National Park Service,” Jockey’s Ridge Park Supervisor Joy Greenwood said in an interview with the Voice. “Part of the justification for us becoming a National Natural Landmark was that it would be an AEC, so it would be under protection.”

The designation places the park in a national listing on the National Park Service website and as Greenwood points out, it’s an easy way for someone to find out about the park.

“They may be living in California and saying, ‘Oh, wow, wouldn’t that be really cool to go see Jockey’s Ridge State Park in North Carolina,’” she said.

Responding to the Rules Review Commission’s action, The CRC contends that “The removal of the rules from the Code severely impacts the CRC’s rules and creates confusion related to permitting procedures of the State’s coastal management program and the regulated public.”

The power of the Rules Review Commission to remove any rule from CRC guidelines was enacted by the state’s General Assembly on October 3, 2023. Two days later, the Review Commission met and removed those rules from the Code the same day,” the CRC states.

According to CRC Chair Renee Cahoon, the Rules Review Commission is not subject to oversight and does not have to submit its decision for public review.

“With the change in legislative law, it gave the Rules Review Commission the power to just drop agency law,” she told the Voice. “Once they dropped the rules out of the books, they no longer exist.”

In response, the CRC has moved quickly to reinstate the rules. It recently adopted emergency rules that it had reviewed and accepted earlier in 2023, But they expire on March 1. The CRC is now considering adopting temporary rules that will be the same as the emergency rules and stay in place until new permanent regulations are enacted.

After reciting the CRC language’s describing the importance of Jockey’s Ridge, Ben Cahoon translated that into everyday language.

“Those are legalistic and legislative ways of saying the Jockey’s Ridge is beautiful, valuable and beloved by our citizens and visitors. It is the only North Carolina State Park fully within the boundaries of [one] town…It is very special to us,” he said. “Please help us protect it.”

The public comment period on the proposed temporary rules will close on Feb. 1, 2023. Comments should be directed to Mike Lopazanski, Deputy Director NC DEQ, Division of Coastal Resources Commission, 400 Commerce Ae. Morehead City, NC 28557.



  • Amy Davis

    So who is behind the decision made by the Review Board in October 2023 and why wouldn’t it be a public hearing? What other AEC’s in NC are affected?

    Tuesday, Jan 16 @ 8:57 am
  • Local NHer

    If you live on Soundside Rd, you should’ve known what you were getting into when you bought property there.

    Thursday, Jan 18 @ 2:06 pm