It is well-known, coastal environmental experts say, that the beach is at its widest in August. This photo was taken Aug. 3, 2020. The beach is in perpetual motion, annually undergoing erosion and accretion (the addition of sand).

The Southern Shores Town Council agreed by consensus this morning to a preference for a slightly modified version of Option 1, which outlines two municipal service districts, from among the three MSD boundary options recommended by Town Manager Cliff Ogburn for purposes of assessing increased property taxes for the town’s 2022 beach-nourishment project.

(See The Beacon, 1/18/21, for background.)

Mr. Ogburn will take the guidance he received from the Council at today’s workshop meeting and incorporate it into an MSD proposal for Council members to consider at their Feb. 2 regular meeting.

The Beacon will post this proposal as soon as it is available on the Town website.

Option 1 has two MSDs:

*MSD 1, which includes all oceanfront properties, which Mr. Ogburn described as those that “abut” the ocean, and all properties within the Pelican Watch development; and

*MSD 2, which includes 1) all properties on the west side of Ocean Boulevard, from the southern end of town to around the Duck Road split; 2) all properties north of the split and east of Duck Road, including Seacrest Village, that are not oceanfront; and 3) all oceanside properties that are east of Ocean Boulevard, but do not abut the ocean, and are between the Duck Road split and Hickory Trail.

In the latter category are properties on Sandpiper, Purple Martin, and Mockingbird lanes, three block-long, dead-end streets off of Ocean Boulevard that have some of the older homes in Southern Shores.

The Council modified the original version of Option 1 to eliminate an MSD-2 designation for some of the properties in Pelican Watch, proposing that they all be considered in MSD-1, which will be the highest-taxed district.

The Town is seeking to raise $6.2 million in taxes from the MSD properties over a five-year period, according to Mr. Ogburn, or about $1.24 million per year. This assumes a beach-nourishment project costing between $14 million and $16 million.

See today’s meeting packet for a map of Option 1: Meeting-Packet_2021-01-19.pdf (southernshores-nc.gov)

The Council engaged in a long, wide-ranging, and thoughtful discussion about the three MSD options and the tax-rate increases that might be assessed to properties within them.

Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey and Councilmen Jim Conners and Matt Neal were the most active participants, each accounting for points to consider that the other two did not raise. The Beacon will share some of their viewpoints—all of which served constituents’ interests—in a future blog.

The purpose of this morning’s MSD discussion was to zero in on the proposed district boundaries, not to set tax rates, which the Town Council will determine in its fiscal year 2021-22 budget meetings.

A public hearing on the MSDs, described by Mr. Ogburn as a “pretty significant event for the town,” is tentatively scheduled for March 16.

Prior to the Council’s consideration of the MSD options, consultant Ken Willson of Coastal Planning and Engineering of North Carolina gave a report on the changes in the condition of the Southern Shores beaches between December 2017 and June 2020.

(For the questionable value of short-term data, see The Beacon, 9/20/19.)

We will abstain from reporting on this update until after we have had a chance to read Mr. Willson’s report to the Town, which is currently in draft form.

As Councilman Conners aptly put it, Mr. Willson’s presentation was “quite a bit to digest,” and we need time to do so.

One impression that Mr. Willson reinforced for us was that the four-mile-long Southern Shores shoreline varies considerably in terms of erosion and the need for nourishment.

The southern end is well-known historically and in modern times for its high rate of erosion and volume of sand loss; Pelican Watch is on the same site as the old Sea Ranch Hotel, which was swept away in the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962, along with every other structure in the vicinity of the Kitty Hawk Pier. This will always be a hot spot.

The so-called “central” area between Chicahauk Trail and Third Avenue is, and has always been, stable and has actually gained sand.

The northern end can only be characterized by looking at the data from different beach profile stations, which Mr. Willson did not provide. What has happened to the oceanfront at Seventh Avenue does not necessarily track with the beach at 11th Avenue or at the Hillcrest Beach.

Indeed, it was not until the Town Council altered the longtime goal of the Town’s beach management plan from storm-damage protection to the preservation of a “useable beach width” that the northern end was even targeted in a beach nourishment project.

(For background on the change in goal, see The Beacon, 1/19/20.)

Mr. Neal referred several times to the “many heritage and legacy properties” on the oceanfront that have been in families for generations and “will feel the brunt of the tax burden.” These same property owners may not be able to “pass on” the cost of increased taxes to renters because they do not rent.

Mr. Neal suggested that these longtime family-property owners look into the prospect of having their homes designated as historic landmarks.

We will report more when we can! You may view the videotape of today’s meeting, which lasted two hours and 41 minutes, at Southern Shores – YouTube.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 1/19/21 


  1. Thank you Ann. I appreciate the time and talent you expend on behalf of keeping our community informed. Looking forward to your next analysis on Mr. Wilson’s report on the state of our beaches in various places. As one who walks the beach with my dog regularly between 13th and Hickory, I do not see the need at this end, even at 7th. The stairs do wash away in the big storms, but replacing them is minor cost compared to beach nourishment. Town of Duck is not considering beach nourishment between 13th Duck town line and the Research pier. Our beach at the north end is the same as theirs. We know that it will have to be a continual replenishment every 5 years. Will county funds and sand be there? Will it be a waste of money? And will the SSCA be taxed on the oceanfront properties they own?

    Fran Kapinos

    Sent from my iPad



    1. Thanks for writing, Fran. I can answer a few questions: Dare County Manager Bobby Outten has pledged that there will always be county funds available for “maintenance.” Cliff Ogburn said this morning that the Southern Shores tax rates for beach nourishment will likely decrease for maintenance projects, which are not as costly. As far as I know, the SSCA will not be taxed on its OF properties, which also increases the burden on other MSD-1 property owners. I did the scientific and historical research and argued repeatedly in-person and in writing that this beach nourishment project is not necessary, but I was overruled by other property owners and by the Mayor’s persistent advocacy. No longer is the project about restoring the beaches after storm damage, it is about preserving “useable beach width.” I look forward to reading Mr. Willson’s latest report. Thanks again.


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