April 14, 2016
Board decides to expand Buxton nourishment service district
By IRENE NOLAN
a special meeting last evening, Dare County's Board of Commissioners
voted unanimously to expand the proposed service district that defines
the properties whose owners will help pay for a beach nourishment
project in north Buxton
This is the county board's second attempt to decide which property
owners should chip in for the project, the total cost of which will be
about $25 million.
Also at the meeting, the commissioners decided to postpone for a few
days a decision on accepting the low bid for the project, which is
$22.15 million from Weeks Marine of Covington, La., but which wouldn't
get the project underway until next year -- a big disappointment to
county officials and to residents who want the project as soon as
possible to protect Highway 12.
Dare County has asked the four contractors who responded to the call
for bids to submit a bid for this year and one for 2017. Only two of
the contractors bid on the project for this year and both were at least
$12 million or so over budget.
The county cannot squeeze another $12 million out of its beach
nourishment fund, which consists of a 2 percent occupancy tax paid by
visitors who rent accommodations in the county. County officials are
also under some time pressure to accept a bid and to clear the project
with the state's Local Government Commission.
However, Commissioner Warren Judge asked if the board could send a
delegation to Washington, D.C., to talk to the state's Congressional
delegation about getting the extra money to get the project done this
And Commissioner Allen Burrus asked if board Chairman Bob Woodard would
be willing to call N.C. Secretary of Transportation Nick Tennyson to
see if the state might help with the additional funds. Burrus
also suggested that Woodard get Tennyson on the record with his answer,
to make it clear to the public where the state stands in the effort to
protect the highway.
At the urging of some other commissioners, the board decided that
Woodard would make some phone calls today to see if a visit to
Washington or Raleigh would conceivably help find any extra money -- or
if it's a hopeless cause.
If the phone calls show the cause is hopeless, the board will take up
accepting the 2017 proposal from Weeks Marine at its regular meeting on
Monday, April 18, at 5 p.m.
Only two Buxton property owners spoke at last night's meeting and both mostly addressed the timing of the project, not who pays.
One was Carol Dillon, who owns the Outer Banks Motel on the Buxton
oceanfront, and has often criticized the board for not acting quickly
"I am very disappointed that you are not having this meeting on
Hatteras Island," she began. "And I'm sorry there are not more people
Then she lit into the board.
"I don't care if you people borrow it, beg it, or steal it, but you
better get money before hurricane season," she said. "You just need to
Jim Hartshorne, who lives in Frisco and owns a house on the Buxton
oceanfront, also said he wished more people had attended and
asked if there was a possibility of finding a shorter window of time
from one of the dredging companies for a scaled-back project.
At past meetings, the commissioners have made it clear that they favor
some sort of tax district for Hatteras islanders, so that there is
parity with property owners from the northern beach towns who are
chipping in to help pay for their nourishment.
In the northern towns, taxpayers are shouldering about 25 percent of
the cost of the project, and the rest is coming from the county's beach
nourishment fund. The commissioners have said that they don't
expect Hatteras Island or Buxton property owners to pay that much --
but they haven't said how much they will pay.
At one point, Judge asked, “What rate are we talking about? How much will it be?” he asked.
Woodard answered that the board was not talking about the rate, just establishing the district.
"I've never bought anything without asking the price," Judge responded,
adding that he hoped that before the board enacted a district, it could
give property owners an idea of how much their taxes would increase.
In order to establish the district, the county must publish a report
that outlines the need for the district, the reason it is impractical
or impossible to provide the services countywide, and that it is
economically feasible. The report must show that the taxpayers residing
in the district will receive a benefit from the project that others
taxpayers don't -- in this case, protection from storm surge and
flooding from the ocean.
In early March, the county proposed that the special district include
only 35 oceanfront properties, which obviously easily fit the
criteria. However, after a public hearing on April 4, the
commissioners decided to consider expanding the district.
On the table for consideration yesterday were three options.
- Map 1. Oceanfront properties only -- 35 valued at $17.4 million.
- Map 2. The triangle bordered by Old Lighthouse
Road, Highway 12 (and a few properties west), and the ocean. This
are would include 137 properties, valued at $41.4 million.
- Map 3. All properties in an area bordered by
Lighthouse Road (the Park Service road) and the oceanfront, including
parcels on both sides of Highway 12. This would include Diamond
Shoals Estates, the old Coast Guard housing that is now privately
owned, and commercial properties on the south side and north side
of Highway 12. This area would add include 258 parcels, valued at
County assessor Greta Skeen and David White,
chief residential appraiser, discussed a map of damage done to the
properties in the three areas during major storms dating back to
Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
At least three commissioners -- Woodard, Beverly Boswell, and Jack Shea -- seemed to be leaning toward a Map 3 service district.
However, other commissioners noted that there had not been significant damage to properties in the Map 3 area during storms.
"I've been here 10 years, and I haven't seen any flood damage in those areas," White told the commissioners.
"I'm concerned about the catastrophic one that hits one day," Woodard said.
"I think we need to go with what history tells us," Commissioner Wally Overman countered.
County manager and attorney Bobby Outten, when
asked his legal opinion of whether he could defend adding parcels
in Map 3, said he would have a difficult time defending that action in
court, considering what the county's employees had said about little
flood damage in the area.
During the discussion, Woodard noted that "the majority is for (Map) 2" and asked for a motion.
The motion to establish the properties in Map 2
as the Buxton Service District for beach nourishment was made by
Overman and seconded by Commissioner Margarette Umphlett.
Hatteras Island commissioner Allen Burrus had
previously said he opposed raising any taxes to pay for the project,
but could live with Map 1 or 2.
In the end, the vote to establish Map 2 as the proposed district was unanimous.
The county must now prepare a new report, publish
a new map, notify property owners in the new proposed district by mail,
and set a public hearing four weeks after the new information is mailed.
Judge asked that the public hearing be held in Buxton "after work hours," and Woodard agreed.
Buxton beach nourishment is moving -- but not quickly enough for some
Buxton beach nourishment timeline: Too ambitious or not ambitious enough
Commissioners pursue expanding Buxton special tax district
County receives two bids for 2016 Buxton nourishment; both exceed budget