NC - North Topsail Beach considers tacking local protections on top of federal wetland regulations
The North Topsail Beach Board of Aldermen will consider adding language to its unified development ordinance to require property owners to take additional steps to preserve and restore wetland areas.
NORTH TOPSAIL — A beach town could step up local protections for its area wetlands.
Wednesday, the North Topsail Beach Board of Aldermen will consider adding language to its unified development ordinance to require property owners to take additional steps to preserve and restore wetland areas.
Property owners will be required to plant vegetation and stabilize developments with mulch within two weeks after disturbing wetland areas. Owners are required to protect any wetlands within a property and not alter the natural water features of a lot to be altered beyond what is allowed in a construction permit.
Violators may be fined and required to repair wetlands within a week of receiving a notice from the town. If the wetland has not been repaired after a week, the town can fine a property owner every day the area remains damaged.
The aldermen directed the town planning board to review wetland regulations and submit a proposal to increase them locally. The proposed regulations were created after the town planning board met with Rob Mairs, a United States Army Corps of Engineers permit officer.
North Topsail’s existing regulations do not focus explicitly on wetlands, but do place special requirements on building in floodplains, including wetland delineations from the USACE. Wetlands are supposed to fall in the town’s conservation and residential-agricultural zoning districts.
Wednesday, the board of aldermen will hold a public hearing on the changes ahead of the vote. The presentation attached to the meeting’s agenda about the update includes a recommendation to delete a reference to wetland definitions “to prevent conflict with Federal and State definitions or changes.”
The comment is referring to the first line in the proposed amendment:
“WHEREAS, N.C. Session Law 2023-63 created new definitions for wetlands that
apply throughout North Carolina.”
That law, passed by the North Carolina General Assembly via veto override in late June, is the state’s latest Farm Act. A new version of the act is passed each session ostensibly to aid agriculture.
Mixed in with this year’s provisions, along with provisions on turkey litter recycling and new rules on timber theft, is language tying the state’s definition of wetlands to the federal definition.
The change has the potential to strip protection from some existing wetlands based on their lack of permanent connection to another body of water. The federal definition of a wetland changed as the result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in May.
The presentation for North Topsail’s new rules notes the change is not expected to alter the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s approach to the wetlands in the town’s jurisdiction because it falls in a special area of estuarine concern.