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Thursday, May 30, 2024

In support of pending ‘The Point’ purchase, commissioners sign off on grant application to buy southend parking lot

A view of South Topsail Beach from the sky above Banks Channel. (Courtesy of Wilton Wescott)

TOPSAIL BEACH — To much applause, Topsail Beach Commissioners signed a resolution this week in support of North Carolina Coastal Land Trust’s fundraising effort to purchase and preserve one of the area’s most beloved barrier islands, The Point. It also signed off for a grant to help with the purchase of a parking lot for public access in the area.

READ MORE: Topsail residents push for long-term protections of The Point, amid land use plan, zoning ordinance review

Located on the southern end of Topsail Island, the 150-acre tract consists of m​​aritime shrub forests, estuarine wetlands, dunes, and 1.6 miles of shoreline frontage, home to many birds, foxes, turtles and other wildlife. 

Part of the resolution also included a directive to apply for funding through the North Carolina Public Beach and Waterfront Access Program. Topsail Beach currently leases a parking lot on the south end from the owners of the Point; Port City Daily asked the town for how much but didn’t receive an answer by press. 

It would cost the town $800,000 to purchase the parking lot and a portion of an adjacent property.

“We’re not planning for more parking,” Mayor Steven George Smith clarified. “Basically, we have some erosion issues we’ve got to deal with down there — and if you think long-term, sewer or other infrastructure issues come through, we’ve got to have places to put the pipes in the ground, and things like that. That’s the only real reason we’re asking for that additional property.”

The town is looking to submit for a grant to offset those costs. The North Carolina Public Beach and Waterfront Access Program provides up to $350,000, leaving the town with a $450,000 balance. Town staff indicated people from the land trust have helped with the execution of the pre-application, due April 15. Topsail Beach should find out by October if they are approved for the full amount or any partial payment.

“Now if the grant does not come through, then we’re going to have to have further discussions about what to do,” assistant town manager Christine Burke said.

If the town had to pay more than $500,000 for the lot, it would go through the Local Government Commission, the mayor noted in the meeting.

The Point has been at the center of headlines for two years, as Raleigh tech executive Todd Olson and his wife, Laura, were under contract to purchase the land and build a seven-structure family compound on 20 acres. Their goal was to preserve the rest of the 130 acres.

Resident pushback and commissioners’ ongoing conditional requests became too much, according to the Olsons, who pulled out of the deal and withdrew its rezoning requests in November. In the midst of the process, Conserve the Point was founded by locals wanting to continue to enjoy The Point’s access.

Ray Costa, one of the founders of Conserve the Point, thanked commissioners during the meeting. 

“We appreciate your diligence and examining the issues and listening to the concerns of the public,” Costa said. “You continue to work hard to keep Topsail Beach the town that we all love and enjoy.”

In addition to applying for grants, the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust is also taking in public donations. 

Commissioner Joe Bell urged the public at council’s meeting to reach into their pockets to help.

“When Harrison [Marks, director of Coastal Land Trust] came in, he said, if we don’t support by our public, that this can be hard for those guys up in Raleigh to give us the money if we’re not willing to fork out some and show that we support it. So talk to your friends, talk to everybody,” he said.

PCD reached out to the land trust to find out how much in private donations its secured to date; an answer was not received by press though Coastal Review reported earlier this week it was $50,000 with 100 or more donations coming online.

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