Mess at Mirlo: Future is uncertain for Rodanthe beach houses
road that runs through Mirlo Beach has been fixed and the dunes rebuilt
but homeowners face serious questions on how to repair their houses on
the east and west sides of Highway 12.
delivered a crushing blow to Mirlo Beach, which is located in north
Rodanthe, by destroying a large section of Highway 12 and by
undermining houses on both sides of the road.
recent years, the oceanfront houses in this area have been under a
barrage from the ocean as the shoreline continues to erode, leaving the
structures vulnerable to heavy seas and ocean overwash.
the northernmost house in this area, met its demise as a direct result
of Hurricane Irene on Sept. 2 when it collapsed suddenly and fell into
the ocean, littering the entire area with dangerous debris, much of
which is buried under the rebuilt road.
Beach is where the famous house Serendipity once stood before it was
moved to a safer place in January, 2010. Serendipity was used
exterior scenes in the 2008 feature film, “Nights in Rodanthe,” based
on a book written by Nicholas Sparks. The film starred Richard Gere and
several oceanfront and roadside houses are deemed uninhabitable by Dare
County and bear the yellow warning notice of an unsafe structure.
The Black Pearl and Ship's Watch, which are now the two most
northern houses in Mirlo Beach, are standing but leaning towards the
ocean and are under a nuisance declaration from Dare County.
to Donna Creef, director of the Dare County Planning Department, a
nuisance declaration means that the house is in imminent danger of
collapse and is a public health risk. A collapsed house
massive debris field in the surrounding area, both in the water and on
the beach. Owners who have been given a nuisance declaration
asked to mitigate the damage quickly.
Owners are faced
with the possibility of tearing down the structure or relocating it to
a new lot if the house has been approved by a structural
engineer. Sometimes houses can be righted in their current
location, but owners have to consider the impact of future storms,
especially in an area that seems to be losing its beach at a rapid rate.
has been in contact with the owner of the Black Pearl, who is
researching the possibilities of relocation, but is still waiting to
hear from the owner of the other house.
There are four
other houses in this line of oceanfront houses that have been tagged as
unsafe structures, which is a much lesser notice, and these houses are
usually recertified. In most cases, these warnings are issued
to a more easily fixable problem, such as missing power lines,
compromised septic systems, or lost access to the house.
of these houses came off the list on Friday. Of the three
remaining condemned houses, two have still not been fixed since the
Veterans Day Storm in November, 2009, nearly two years ago.
the soundside of Highway 12, the situation is much more complicated,
leaving the homeowners, the North Carolina Department of
Transportation, and Dare County uncertain on how to proceed.
“We are in uncharted territory,” say Creef. “We
have never dealt with a situation like this.”
inlet that was cut at Mirlo Beach created little waterways that
continue to funnel water directly around these buildings. It
destroyed the access road, which is privately owned, and put houses in
various states of disrepair with one of them leaning seriously ever
since the storm struck in late August.
Another one of the
houses here was just moved to this presumed safer location a few months
earlier from the oceanside, where it was in jeopardy with every storm
or ocean swell.
Even today, all of these houses are still
standing in a large deep pool of contaminated water that continues to
damage them, especially when the wind blows from the west.
houses have no driveways or parking pads left.
“You just can’t get to the property,” says Creef.
can’t begin in this area until the flow of water is plugged, which is a
situation that still hasn’t been resolved.
Don Devin, who heads the Mirlo Beach property owners’ association, met
with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife management on Pea Island to discuss the
water problem. There are two channels of water coming under
houses at Mirlo Beach from refuge property.
“It would be foolish to fill the hole until the water problem is
solved,” says Devin.
was hoping that Fish and Wildlife managers would have a solution to the
problem, but they didn’t. Another meeting is scheduled
the homeowners’ association and the Pea Island managers for the end of
the month. That meeting will include NCDOT and the Cape Hatteras
“We have three transmission poles in the
water on land we presume to be private property,” says Susan Flythe,
general manager of the local electric co-op. “We have been
invited to this meeting. We all have an interest.”
Creef met with Don Devin last Friday at the site, but didn’t have much
to offer. According to Creef, the county doesn’t do road
maintenance, though the county is sympathetic to the problem.
was very informative but said that technically, the county cannot help
us with this problem,” says Devin. “However, she said they
help with any future planning.”
If the homeowners don’t
get help, Devin doesn’t know what will happen to these homes.
indicated that it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars just to
fill the massive hole once the flow of new water was stopped.
That is just filling it and doesn’t include resurfacing the road or
doing any house repairs.
Applying for help from the
Small Business Administration is one avenue that can be investigated
and FEMA is another. Insurance covers the buildings but not
repair of the common area.
More than two months after the
storm, this remains a complex issue that needs to be resolved before
any repairs can begin.
The lost revenue in rental income
for the homeowners has been staggering. With all the time
has been taken just assessing the damage, the 2012 season is looking
uncertain for these rental houses.