Saturday, July 13, 2024

Update: Surf City approves ‘megadecks’ on ‘unbuildable’ oceanfront dune lots

At a town council meeting Wednesday night, councilmembers will vote on an amendment that would allow for the construction of large decks on unbuildable sand dune lots.

Surf City mayor Doug Medlin sets forth a motion for the town to draw up two ordinances, one to allow food trucks with regulations, the other to prohibit food trucks, to be proposed at the next town council meeting on Dec. 4. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
From left to right, councilmen Donald Helms, Jeremy Shugarts, William Fowler, Mayor Doug Medlin, and councilwoman Teresa Batts at a town council meeting in early December. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

Update 7:30 p.m. — Surf City Town Council voted 3 to 1 to approve the ‘megadeck’ amendment.

SURF CITY — A zoning ordinance that would allow for the construction of crossovers and decks up to 500 square feet in size on unbuildable oceanfront sand dune lots will be put to a vote at tonight’s town council meeting.

A public hearing and vote will take place at the temporary town hall located at the Surf City Community Center on Wednesday, Jan. 2, at 6:30 p.m.

The town’s proposed ordinance defines an unbuildable oceanfront lot as one “that does not allow for the construction of a single family home under the CAMA (Coastal Area Management Act) regulations.”

RELATED: Surf City calls for Christmas trees to restore sand dunes, faces further delays in FEMA funding

The town’s agenda for Wednesday’s meeting states that “it is requested to make a motion to approve the zoning text amendment as presented.”

Restrictions outlined by CAMA allow for structural accessways “so long as they are designed and constructed in a manner that entails negligible alteration on the primary dune.” However, the rules also state that anything other than a pedestrian pathway, less than six feet in width, can be permitted only if it meets a public purpose or a need which cannot otherwise be met.

In no case shall an accessway be permitted if it will diminish the dune’s capacity as a protective barrier against flooding and erosion,” states section 7H .0308 of the state’s Division of Coastal Management rules and regulations handbook.

Opposition group: “You have the state’s attention”

Marcus Horton, who has a beach house in Surf City where he spends roughly half the year, said that he and a grassroots group of full-time and part-time residents oppose the amendment because such land use will “change the appearance of Surf City’s beach front and will have far-reaching negative economic impacts.”

The main question the opposition group has for town officials and the board, according to Horton, is this: Why does the town want to allow for these “megadeck” structures on eroded sand dunes, especially in the wake of Hurricane Florence and during the town’s efforts to obtain state and federal beach renourishment funding.

Although Horton believes the town has made great strides in collaborating with nearby beach governments to secure funding for beach renourishment and “to make sure our inlets and channels are navigable for fishing, boating, and tourism,” he also believes that the allowance of megadecks may hamper efforts to acquire state and federal funding for beach renourishment projects in the future.

On Dec. 13, Mayor Doug Medlin wrote in a message to citizens on the town’s website about a visit from Governor Roy Cooper to asses the damage of the town’s beach and sand dunes.

From left to right, Governor Roy Cooper meets with Surf City Mayor Doug Medlin and business owner Steven Pasquantonio in December. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Town of Surf City)
From left to right, Governor Roy Cooper meets with Surf City Mayor Doug Medlin and business owner Steven Pasquantonio in December. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Town of Surf City)

I did not want to miss the opportunity to show Governor Cooper first hand how hard our beach was hit by Hurricane Florence,” Medlin wrote. “The impact to our dunes and beach is not an easy and cheap fix, this is not something Surf City can do by themselves, we need funding assistance … It is estimated that nearly 50 million people visit North Carolina every year, this is not just a Surf City or Topsail Island issue but a state and nationwide issue”.

Horton said the spotlight should encourage public officials to “do the right thing” for the town..

“You have the state’s attention; all you have to do is the right thing,” Horton said. “Show me the public good of allowing large decks on what is left of the dunes when we know right now that it could be two years before beach renourishment can be funded.”

He also said there are 145 unbuildable dune lots in Surf City; with the passing of the ordinance, all would be eligible for megadecks.

I know of at least 15 letters that were sent to the town expressing concerns about the large decks slated for the primary and frontal dunes.”

Ultimately, Horton believes councilmembers have an opportunity to either place the town — and the island — in a strong position for much needed recovery funding or risk “diverting competitive beach renourishment funds to other beach communities that are more progressive in taking care of the benefit and protection afforded by unbuildable dune lots.”

Read the town’s proposed ordinance below:

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