Town of Southern Shores, NC / Outerbanks.com

NC - Funding Nourishment Projects Locally, Southern Shores Proposal Nails It!

Beneficiary pays principle drives local funding formula

One of these days, sooner rather than later, the flow of Federal funding for beach nourishment projects in resort communities will stop. We simply can't afford to use federal dollars to hold every beach in America in place, forever. On the North Carolina Outer Banks, they get it. It seems unfair, but the communities of Dare County have always been on their own.

I do think it is fair to expect resort communities to cover the costs of their own protection. I also think it is unfair that so many other places have received federal funding for decades while others have received none. Hard to explain. Suffice it to say, everyone will be in this boat soon. Those who have already worked out the kinks for equitably funding projects will be way ahead of the game.

I really like the formula being proposed for funding a $14-$16 million beach nourishment project in Southern Shores. The funding would come from a variety of sources: some from Dare County, lodging tax return, and also direct contribution from the community through the creation of special taxing districts (Municipal Service Districts).

There is absolutely no doubt that the biggest beneficiaries of any beach nourishment project are oceanfront property owners. Yes, everyone in the community uses the beach. But, not everyone in the community will have their property values DIRECTLY subsidized by preventing an eroding shoreline from undermining their home. In North Carolina, you cannot build a seawall or a bulkhead to stop the shoreline retreat. Resetting the shoreline and providing room for dunes protects oceanfront property more than any other properties. When the USACE conducts a benefit/cost analysis for federal beach nourishment projects, they have to show that the proposed project will reduce storm damage to infrastructure. Almost all (and sometimes all) of the estimated damage averted from federal beach nourishment projects comes from protecting property on the immediate oceanfront. In Southampton, NY, a $26 million beach nourishment project was funded almost entirely by the creation of a special taxing district including predominantly oceanfront property owners! Oceanfront property owners will reap the lions share of the benefits from any project, and it is fair that they carry a larger share of the cost.

I also think that it is very reasonable to create a second district just inland of the beach including property owners who will also receive some degree of protection from the project, and who have easier access to the newly created amenity. The closer you are, the greater the benefits.

Utilizing multiple sources of funding reduces the costs for everyone, and allows a community to cover the expenses without having to commit to long-term debt. This is critical because beach nourishment is a long-term commitment. Successful communities desiring to ensure long-term economic stability will find a way to pay-as-you-go. Or, there will be big problems down the road (I won't name names here, but there are already some North Carolina towns in trouble).

I think the Southern Shores plan is equitable and reasonable. I hope the property owners and residents will see it that way as well. This is what good leadership looks like.

Thoughts? Contact me @ ryoung@wcu.edu

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