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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Conservation group warns of limited development potential on 110 acres of Topsail Island land

The North Carolina Coastal Federation announced that a recent analysis of land use restrictions on 110 acres of open land on the southern end of Topsail Island has "very limited development potential." (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
The North Carolina Coastal Federation announced that a recent analysis of land use restrictions on 110 acres of open land on the southern end of Topsail Island has “very limited development potential.” (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

TOPSAIL BEACH — Potential buyers of a 110-acre piece of land on the southern end of Topsail Island have been advised by the North Carolina Coastal Federation that the land has “very limited development potential.”

The open lot was listed for sale at $7.95 million in mid-September, and following growing public interest to protect the land from development, state and nonprofit conservation groups have said there are no plans to fund a conservation project.

RELATED: State agency declines funding amid growing public interest to protect 110 acres on Topsail Island

The warning from Coastal Federation came after it had conducted an analysis of land use restrictions of the land. President Todd Miller said that in an effort to evaluate the fair market value of the parcel, the Coastal Federation examined all local, state, and federal restrictions on the property.

“There are significant long-standing regulatory and economic impediments that make it nearly impossible to develop … Anyone investing in this land based on its future development potential is taking a huge speculative gamble,” Miller said in a release issued Tuesday morning.

The analysis determined that the land is:

  1. Zoned for conservation by the Town of Topsail Beach, and long-established local ordinances and land use plans prohibit almost all forms of development.
  2. Within the Inlet Hazard Area designated by the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission, and through Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) state regulations, the Commission is prohibited from issuing state permits for development that are inconsistent with local ordinances.
  3. Part of the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) zone, which makes any future development there ineligible for federal flood insurance, disaster relief, and any public infrastructure or services that receive any federal assistance (including water and sewer, electric, and telephone services).

Kerri Allen, a coastal geologist who advocates for the federation’s work in southeastern North Carolina, conducted the analysis.

“Existing restrictions make it virtually impossible to develop this property,” Allen concluded. “Established local ordinances and land use plans lawfully adopted by the Town of Topsail Beach prevent any use of the property except for beach access facilities and conservation-based activities.”

She said the town’s zoning and development ordinances prohibit residential and commercial development, along with any roads and other public infrastructure from being extended onto the property, citing CAMA’s restrictions for development within Inlet Hazard Areas.

“As long as the Town’s ordinances prohibit this property from being developed, the State of North Carolina is barred from issuing permits that would be necessary for proposed development within this Inlet Hazard Area of Environmental Concern,” Allen said.

According to Pender County property records, the land’s tax value is listed at $2.96 million.

“We don’t know how the county came up with this valuation,” Miller said. “About the only justification for this value is the slim chance that a few large ‘estate type’ homes could be built there.”

No attempt to protect 110 acres of open land on Topsail Island after $7.9 million listing

The federation also analyzed the chance that Topsail Beach might relax existing development restrictions. Based on “intense and widespread public support” for those restrictions, Millers predicted such a move would be highly unlikely. 

“There is overwhelming public interest to keep this land in its natural condition,” Miller said.

As a component of the Coastal Barrier Resources Act of 1982, U.S. Congress imposed severe restrictions on any use of federal tax dollars that would facilitate development on this property, according to the release. Miller also said that if local and state authorities approved a development project for this land in the future, it would still not receive any public services — including electricity, telephone, roads, water, and sewer — financed by federal grants or loans.

Development on the land would also be ineligible for federal flood insurance or any federal disaster assistance after a hurricane, according to the release.

Send tips or comment to Mark Darrough at or (970) 413-3815


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