The Dare County Board of Commissioners (BOC) took another step towards an Avon beach nourishment project at their April 7 meeting by confirming that the criteria required to set up a special service district in Avon had been met.
In the state of North Carolina, and per the County Service District Act of 1973, when one unincorporated portion of a county requires a special service, (and an accompanying tax that is only applied to that segment of the county), then a service district must be established for that region alone. A similar endeavor was launched in 2016, when a service district was created in Buxton to help fund the area’s 2017-2018 beach nourishment project.
Per the North Carolina statute regarding these special service districts, a county may establish a service district if, upon the information and evidence it receives, the Board of Commissioners finds that all of the following apply:
- There is a demonstrable need for providing in the district one or more of the services listed in the G.S. 153A-301 statute, which for Avon, is classified as “Beach erosion control and flood and hurricane protection works.”
- It is impossible or impracticable to provide those services on a countywide basis.
- It is economically feasible to provide the proposed services in the district without unreasonable or burdensome annual tax levies.
- There is a demonstrable demand for the proposed services by persons residing in the district.
After Wednesday morning’s unanimous vote by the board that the above criteria had been met for a potential beach nourishment project, the county can now proceed with the next steps, which include preparing a report that will discuss the proposed district and the boundary lines. The report will then be available for public inspection and review for a period of four weeks.
In addition, the county will have to conduct a public hearing on the service district, after a notice has been mailed to everyone affected by the district, (namely Avon property owners), which will include a map, a report, and detailed information on the project.
Once the public hearing and four-week public review period are complete, the BOC could then adopt the service district, and set the tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year.
“So that’s our process,” said County Manager Bobby Outten at Wednesday’s meeting. “We’re at the point now where you’ve considered over time those factors that I [referenced] earlier, and now you’ve got to go back and make the findings of need, [that a service district] is impossible or impractical in other areas, that it’s economically feasible, and that there is a demand for the service.”
Prior to the vote, Outten outlined how the proposed establishment of an Avon service district met the state’s criteria, noting that most of the information had already been covered multiple times through prior discussions, public meetings, and community feedback.
Demonstrating that there was a need for the district boiled down to the effects that regular ocean overwash had on N.C. Highway 12, leading to road closures and the disruption of essential services.
“This next criteria, that it is ‘impractical to provide this service throughout the county,’ is pretty easy, because the whole county is not oceanfront,” said Outten. “When you look at the rest of it – Stumpy Point, Manns Harbor, East Lake, Roanoke Island, Colington – those areas are not oceanfront. We can’t do a beach erosion control and hurricane protection project there, because there is no beach there. So it is definitely impractical to do this project [in other areas], and tax those areas for this project.”
Outten then touched on the third criteria, economic feasibility, and noted that an estimated 70% of the project is being paid for from the county’s Beach Nourishment Fund instead of Avon property owners. “What you’re offering is in line with what has been done [before],” he said, referring to previous nourishment projects where property owners in the affected towns or areas paid for a portion of the project. “Over 70% of the project is being funded with money outside of the district.”
Finally, Outten explained that the last criteria – a demonstrable demand for the proposed services by persons residing in the district – had also been met via years of discussions and recent events, including a well-attended February public meeting on the proposed project.
“It became clear through those public hearings that most people understood the need, and while they may or may not have liked the tax split, there weren’t many [attendees] that didn’t think there was a need for the project,” said Outten. “There is a public demand for the project there, and there is a public need.”
Now that the BOC has found that the criteria to establish a service district has been met, a report and corresponding mailing to Avon property owners will be conducted in the near future, although there is not yet a definitive date of when the report will be available, and when the next public hearing will occur.
If approved, the new service district will allow for a tax on all 2,261 parcels in Avon, and per the current proposal, properties on the oceanside of N.C. Highway 12 from Due East Road to the Avon’s southern border will be taxed at a rate of 25 cents per $100 dollars of the property’s Dare County tax value, while the rest of the properties in Avon will be taxed 5 cents per $100 dollars. The tax rate was determined by the estimated $750,000 needed annually from Avon property owners to fund the $11-14 million project.
Due to anticipated maintenance every five years, the tax will be in place indefinitely, and may be adjusted in the future, depending on maintenance project costs.
If approved, the tax will be applied to the next annual Dare County tax bill in the summer of 2021, and the actual project, (which will cover approximately 2.5 miles of oceanfront), is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2022, and will take an estimated 90 days to complete.
For more information on the project, see Dare County’s FAQs page on their website.