Ocracoke Real Estate: It’s déjà vu on the fire tax
By B.J. OELSCHLEGE
been here before -- in the place of having the opportunity to take the
bull by the horns and make hard choices for the benefit of our
community, only to choose inaction rather than taking the positive
steps to harness the power of the village.
In the 1980s, the people of Ocracoke had the chance to design the plan
for the development of their village. In conjunction with the
environmental land use plans of CAMA and The Army Corps of Engineers
and the adoption of the federal flood insurance plan by Hyde County,
the government was providing resource people to help towns outline the
process of change and what it would look like for the community of
I remember the posters in the post office decrying the evils of zoning.
Out of fear, the community chose to vote down the option to create some
order for the changing face of Ocracoke. We gave up our power to guide
the unfolding of the village. Within months of the choice to reject any
kind of zoning, construction was started which scared the pants off the
With nothing but the North Carolina building code in place, choices
were being made for the community that no one had anticipated with
regards to height and setback.
The Ocracoke Planning Advisory Board was born out of an effort to take
back some of the control which had been forfeited. The Ocracoke
Building Ordinance was produced to rein in the development. We’ve been
backpeddling ever since, trying to put a lid on the change that the
village finds distasteful.
History repeats itself. Ocracoke had the opportunity to stand behind
our fire department and show them financial, moral, and community
support through the enactment of a fire tax by The Ocracoke Sanitary
After a year of discussions between the fire department and the board,
extensive research by the firemen, and the results of a fire department
sponsored landowner survey, it became painfully apparent that the
present board would never levy the fire tax. The fire department
withdrew its request for the tax.
The interesting twist is that the survey of landowners produced an 85
percent response in favor of levying the tax. Out of the 927 surveys
that went out, 40 percent were returned, and 370 people responded to
the survey. Of that number, 315 were in favor of the tax and
A fire tax, enacted by The Sanitary District, was meant to enable the
• Create a guaranteed USDA loan repayment
• Build the new firehouse to protect the
much needed ladder truck and accommodate all fire equipment.
• Provide operating funds beyond what can
now be afforded by the fire department.
• Meet future N.C. state
• Maintain the current 6 fire rating,
which reduces fire insurance premiums.
• Keep the tax revenue in the control of
the Ocracoke community.
• Maintain the ability to reduce or
exempt fire tax rates for those who meet age or financial requirements.
• Reserve the right to discontinue the
tax once the debt has been paid.
• Be flexible enough to reduce the levy
amount by donations, grants, and fundraisers.
The fire department will continue its quest for the funds to construct
the building and to purchase the equipment necessary to protect the
lives of our firefighters and the property and lives of those living in
this community. The source of the tax revenue will be the same, but the
control over the process will belong to someone else.
Why are we giving away the power in this community again? Why are we
allowing fear to cloud our vision?
We should resurrect the energy that roared through the village when it
looked like the county was about to enact a tourist occupancy tax to
fund their black hole of a budget. Our citizens reversed the direction
of that revenue source. Look at what we have accomplished with those
Rather than submit to the fear of another tax, it is essential to bring
a positive attitude to the table, for this public cause. This is for
the good of the community. We all have a stake in fire protection,
especially on this island.
If we each do our small part, it benefits the whole. We have the brain
capacity in this village to find a way to fund the fire department so
they can better protect this group of people with a common background
and shared interests called Ocracoke.
Oelschlegel has lived on Ocracoke Island for more than 30 years and has
worked in the real estate business for 26 years. She is a
with Ocracoke’s Lightship Realty and a real estate columnist for The
Ocracoke Observer. You can reach her by e-mail at [email protected])