June 6, 2016

Board approves Buxton special district for beach nourishment

By IRENE NOLAN

At its meeting this morning, the Dare County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution establishing a service district in north Buxton to help pay for next year's planned beach nourishment project.

Commissioner Jack Shea made the motion to approve the district.  The motion to second was made by Commissioner Wally Overman. There was no discussion before the vote.

After the vote on the service district, the Commissioners opened a  public hearing on the county's 2017 budget.

The only speaker for the hearing was Jim Hartshorne of Frisco, who owns a home on the Buxton oceanfront, who said he thought all taxpayers in each village should pay for beach nourishment projects within that village.

After the hearing, the board unanimously approved the county's proposed 2017 budget of $104 million.

Included in that budget is a rate for 25 cents per $100 of valuation for the new Buxton service district, which is effective on July 1.

Dare County has received permits, including a special use permit from the National Park Service to nourish 2.9 miles of beach from about the Canadian Hole/Haulover area to the former site of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  The total cost of the project is expected to be about $25 million.

The county has taken on the beach nourishment project since the N.C. Department of Transportation did not declare a state of emergency in the Buxton area -- as it did in Rodanthe -- after hurricanes Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012. 

In 2014, DOT completed a nourishment project in north Rodanthe and the S-curves at the south end of Pea Island to protect Highway 12.

When the DOT project did not include Buxton, the Dare County Board of Commissioners decided to forge ahead with its own project to protect Highway 12 in north Buxton from frequent ocean overwash. The project will be paid for mostly by a 2 percent county occupancy tax.

However, one of the county's towns has already nourished its beaches -and three more intend to start projects next year.   Taxpayers in the towns are paying part of the cost of the nourishment projects, and members of the Board of Commissioners felt that Buxton property owners on or near the oceanfront who will benefit from the beach restoration should help pay for it as a matter of fairness.

At first, the board proposed that the service district include only 35 oceanfront properties, valued at about $17 million. After an April 4 public meeting on that proposal, the board decided to expand the district to include other properties to the west of Old Lighthouse Road.

The service district established today includes 147 parcels of land in the triangle bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Old Lighthouse Road, and Highway 12 (and a few properties west).

The board had a public hearing on that proposal on May 2 at the Fessenden Center in Buxton.

At public hearings, some taxpayers have opposed helping pay for the nourishment project since they feel it is a road project that should be paid for by NCDOT, and others have said it should be expanded to include other islanders who benefit from using Highway 12. Most, though, welcome the protection for their properties, though all of the property owners who have spoken at public hearings and meetings are unhappy that the project has been postponed until next year.

The county had hoped that sand would be pumped on the beach this summer, but only two companies bid on the work this summer and both bids were over the budget by about $12 million.  The county has contracted with Weeks Marine of Covington, La., to do the work in 2017 at a cost of $22.15 million.

The county budget for 2017 that was passed today calls for no increase in taxes, except for the north Buxton service district.

The base county tax rate is 43 cents per $100 of valuation, but taxpayers in unincorporated Dare also pay for fire districts, rescue squad districts, some community center districts, and sanitation.

The base county rate in Buxton -- including fire, rescue, and sanitation -- is 64.84 cents per $100 of valuation.  Taxpayers in the new service district will now pay 89.84 cents per $100 of valuation.

Click here to read the resolution passed today by the Board of Commissioners establishing a county service district for the Buxton beach nourishment project.

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