Southern Shores has always had stable beaches that restore themselves after seasonal storms cause erosion. The town’s 2022 beach nourishment project is based on hypothetical future damage mitigation, not on current need or past trends. Dare County Manager Bobby Outten has referred to the project as “proactive.”

The Southern Shores Town Council may decide at its 9 a.m. workshop meeting tomorrow the boundary lines of municipal service districts (MSDs) that it will propose using to assess beach-nourishment taxation on property owners, starting in the 2021-22 tax year.

The Council will meet in the Pitts Center, subject to COVID-19 safety protocols.

Town Manager Cliff Ogburn has recommended three options for the MSD boundary lines, each of which he has outlined with corresponding tax increases for the properties located within these districts.

These options derive from MSDs drawn and proposed last winter by Town staff with the assistance of Town Council—chiefly Councilman Matt Neal—before the Council’s March 24 budget hearing. The boundaries are based on proximity to the beach and on the assessed value of the properties within the defined districts.

See meeting packet: Meeting-Packet_2021-01-19.pdf (southernshores-nc.gov)

Any additional ad valorem tax that is levied on Southern Shores property owners to pay for the 2022 townwide beach nourishment project would be assessed annually for the duration of the debt service. It would be levied in perpetuity, at a rate to be determined, if the Town “maintains” renourishment on what is usually a five-year cycle.

The Town’s 4-mile-long project has been estimated, but not confirmed, to cost between $14 million and $16 million.

In each of the three proposed options, MSD-1 is defined as all property “abutting the Atlantic Ocean.” The proposed increase in taxes on oceanfront property owners ranges from a low of 25.98 cents more per $100 of assessed property value to a high of 33.36 cents per $100 of value.

The high-end tax is proposed in an “Option 3” in which there would be only one MSD, the oceanfront, and OF property owners would pay 75 percent of the revenue that the Town must raise to fund its nourishment project.

The other two options carve out an MSD-2, which appears to include all of the westside properties on N.C. Hwy. 12 (Ocean Boulevard) until the Duck Road split. North of the split, properties are treated differently, according to the option.

Properties that are north of the split, but east of Hwy. 12 (Duck Road) are included in the MSD-2 proposed in “Option 1.” An “Option 2” reduces this MSD-2 to include only the second and third row of properties back from the ocean and east of Duck Road. (See the illustrations in the meeting packet.)

Property owners in the proposed MSD-2 pay either an additional 9.23 cents per $100 of value or an additional 12.02 cents per $100.

Every other property owner in Southern Shores would pay an additional 1.96 cents per $100, or what the Town has calculated to be a collective 25 percent of the revenue that needs to be raised, regardless of which MSD option is selected.

Although N.C. law requires a town to attest that a proposed district is in need of beach nourishment to a “demonstrably greater extent than the rest” of the districts in town—thus, justifying what would otherwise be an unconstitutional tax burden— Southern Shores has based its MSD designations strictly on how much money it can raise per district.

No justification has ever been given by the Town for its determination of the percentage of cost that property owners in the proposed MSDs and townwide should bear. If it used other Dare County towns’ beach nourishment funding schemes/percentages for its model, it has not said so.

N.C. law requires a town to hold a public hearing about the proposed MSDs and permits property owners to seek exclusion from a district. Owners may request exclusion by the Town Council at the public hearing or submit a written request for exclusion to the Council up to five days after the hearing date.

A timeline for the public hearing and the Council’s approval of the proposed MSDs—which requires two votes—is included in the meeting packet. We will discuss the timeline after the Council makes its decision about the MSDs.

Also on the agenda tomorrow are a presentation by Ken Willson of Coastal Planning and Engineering of North Carolina about his firm’s 2020 Southern Shores beach monitoring report and an update by Mr. Willson on the permitting and design for the Town’s beach nourishment project.   

It is unfortunate that the results of CPE-NC’s beach monitoring last year are not in tomorrow’s meeting packet to be perused in advance.

We note further that the Town Council also will consider tomorrow whether or not it wishes to submit a proposal to participate in the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality’s program promoting zero-emission vehicles by funding charging stations. (See pp. 12-31 of the meeting packet.)

You may attend the Town Council meeting in-person, provided you wear a face covering and observe COVID-19 safety protocols.

The meeting will be live-streamed on YouTube at Southern Shores – YouTube. We have been assured by Mr. Ogburn that the video feed, this time, will be audible. 

There will be one public-comment period before the business agenda. If you do not wish to attend the meeting, but would like to comment, you may email your remarks to info@southernshores-nc.gov. Please write “public comment” in the subject line.

ALSO TOMORROW: The Town Planning Board will meet at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center to begin its final review of CodeWright’s rewrite of the Southern Shores Town Code, a controversial project that is now 6 ½ years in the making.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 1/18/21

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