Oak Island’s ad hoc beach committee will meet for the last time Thursday, September 9, at 4 p.m. to decide on the details of a report to Town Council about sand, projects and financing.
The seven-member group is broadly tasked with analyzing funding proposals offered by the town’s consultants and methods used by other beach communities. The committee was also asked to consider external funding sources, such as grants or paid parking.
In anticipation of a special obligation bond, which would require approval from state officials, Oak Island has established municipal service districts, as recommended by consultants from DEC Group (including Doug Carter). The districts are now at a zero-tax rate. Council could change that number and has signaled its intent to decide in January 2022.
The timing is important. If and when the town starts collecting money from MSDs, it has four years to enter binding contracts for construction, otherwise, it would have to refund MSD payments to property owners.
Some committee members said they were distressed by the MSD numbers at the September 2 meeting.
Chairman Rick Barry summarized several key findings and urged the group to make recommendations on topics ranging from MSDs to grants, sea oat seedlings and paid parking.
Secretary Christine Dooley said she thought the idea of charging oceanfront property owners about $8,000 a year for four years was excessive. She agreed that MSDs could be a tool if the town decides to move forward with a “master plan,” estimated to cost $40-million, not including periodic replacement of sand lost to general erosion (estimated at about two feet a year for Oak Island).
Barry called the $8,000 figure “almost ludicrous.”
MSD numbers are nowhere near set in stone, but they range from roughly $8,000 to $6,700 on the oceanfront.
Committee members noted the town could raise property taxes by 15-cents and collect about the same amount of money, but also questioned whether that would be a fair approach.
The group discussed whether to suggest a combination of property taxes and MSDs, given that a major project will require periodic maintenance.
They discussed the pros and cons of an “engineered” beach, versus recreational berms and piecing together storm-damage losses as needed and allowed.
There’s also a lingering question about where and whether Oak Island can find and permit withdrawal of millions of yards of beach-quality sand at a price acceptable to taxpayers. The current concept is to harvest the edges of Frying Pan Shoals, but it’s a circle drawn on a map by Moffitt & Nichol, not a permit.
MSDs as earlier proposed
Again, the numbers are unrefined. However, based on earlier proposals, the concept is to create four districts. How much each would pay is uncertain. The districts would be in effect for four years.
The districts would impose a fee only for the value of the land, not improvements.
Oceanfront property would be the first district. Areas on the second row north to Davis Canal would be the second district. The third district would include property from roughly East Oak Island Drive to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The fourth district would be those parts of town on the mainland.
How much each district would pay is an open question.
The numbers range from one estimate of $6,800 a year for an average property in district one, $1,660 for district two, $532 for district three and $199 for district four. These are average values based on land only and subject to change.
The assessments would be for four years.
Another possibility put the cost for property owners at $6,800 a year on the beach and $258 at the low end.
If the town goes with a large-scale plan, the potential costs, including maintenance, could be $140-million over 20 years, the committee noted. This could include storm damages and general, expected maintenance to a shoreline that is eroding.
“We did our due diligence,” Dooley said. “There are no absolutes.”
She noted that to be refunded by federal and state emergency authorities, Oak Island must pay for storm damages, then be reimbursed.