April 21, 2015

County declares six houses on Buxton
Beach unsafe...WITH SLIDE SHOW


A Dare County building inspector has put up "unsafe structure" notices on six oceanfront houses on the beach in north Buxton.

Planning Department inspector I.G. Scarborough said that power has been disconnected to the houses, which are not allowed to be occupied.

The houses have varying degrees of damage, he said.  Septic tanks and drainfields are damaged at four of the six houses, foundation pilings are undermined at some, and all have some degree of damage to steps and handrails. At one house, the back deck has pulled away from the structure.

One of the houses is located at the end of Cottage Avenue, and the other are on Tower Circle.  He said none of the houses is being currently occupied and that all of the owners have been notified.

Owners of the unsafe structures will have to get permits from the Dare County Planning Department, CAMA, and the county Health Department before the houses can be occupied again.

Scarborough said a few of the houses with damaged septic systems could have trouble getting Health Department permits to repair or replace them because so much beach has been lost. County regulations for septic tanks require setbacks from the first line of vegetation on beaches.

Scarborough said he first became aware of the problems in the area on the day after Easter.

All of the north Buxton beach is badly eroding and structures have been seriously beaten up in northeasters last fall and winter. However, there have been no coastal storms or problems with heavy surf in recent weeks.

In fact, the beach in front of the north Buxton motels -- once the most seriously eroded in the area -- has built out slightly this spring, while the beach to the south in front of the houses has begun eroding more quickly.

Most of the recent erosion seems to be in an area where owners had placed sandbags in front of the houses. You can see in the aerial photographs in the slide show that accompanies this article that there is still some beach in front of the houses that do not have sandbags in front.

Dare County is in the process of getting permits from the National Park Service to nourish the north Buxton Beach -- in front of the houses and motels and north of them along Highway 12.

Although the beach nourishment will benefit the private property owners in the area, Dare County's stated purpose in pursuing the project is to protect Highway 12, which is threatened by the serious erosion.

In addition to NPS, many state and federal agencies are involved in the beach restoration project and must also approve it and/or issue permits. The agencies are meeting on a regular basis during the planning and permitting process.

"It is moving along well," Commissioner Warren Judge said yesterday.  "No agency is throwing up roadblocks,"

The $25 million project is being paid for with county occupancy tax funds and is expected to begin early next summer with completion in August 2016.

Although property owners have stated over and over at public meetings that they can't wait any longer for more sand on the beaches, county, state, and federal officials have said that the nourishment is moving as quickly as it can under current environmental regulations.


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