Oak Island Town Council listened to the concerns of residents and property owners Tuesday evening as the town struggles to put together a $40-million plan to add sand to the beach. Council made no decisions but is floating a concept to assess property owners in four districts.
Council intends to take up the issue again at meetings on April 13 and 20, when the boundaries and assessments could be decided.
Under one option, 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, and the fourth district would be those parts of town on the mainland.
How much each district would pay is an open question.
The numbers floated included: 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.
Council ran other possibilities through a spreadsheet and came up with different fees if there were to be a town-wide property tax (on top of the existing four-cents). The town’s website has a spreadsheet calculator (oakislandnc.com).
One possibility put the cost for property owners at $6,800 a year on the beach and $258 at the low end.
An overriding theme among speakers and members of council on Tuesday was that the problem of beach erosion requires assistance from both the state and Brunswick County.
Mary Fox, who said she represented a group of 245 taxpayers, asked the council to put the matter “on hold, until every stone has been unturned.”
Mayor Ken Thomas responded that the town has sought funds “everywhere we can,” and said the cost of doing nothing would be to relocate utilities and repair the road, which would be $12-million to $17-million.
Council member Jeff Winecoff said the town has asked for help from the state and Brunswick County, and that one member of the county commission “snickered” at the suggestion that the county chip in part of the beach improvement costs ($2.5-million) for four years.
Johnny Martin of the engineering firm Moffatt and Nichol said his group was still examining long-term sand sources, including Jay Bird Shoals and Frying Pan Shoals, and that the company is also considering the possibility of a terminal rock groin at the west end of the island.
Holden Beach recently abandoned its effort to build a terminal groin on the other side of the Lockwood Folly inlet.
Responding to a question from Mike Defeo, former member of the town planning board, Martin stated that the larger project would put five to six times more sand on the beach than the quick, emergency effort the town recently completed. He cautioned, however, that an engineered beach would likely need replenishment about every six years.
Some speakers complained that the town does not do enough to deter people from trampling the dunes, and asked for the town to get serious about violators if the town wants to assess property owners.
One speaker asked that the town consider breakwaters, putting most of the costs on the front row and placing the remainder of expenses up for a vote. Oceanfront landowners should shoulder 50-percent of the costs, he said.
Thomas told several speakers that the town had to put a project “out there,” in order to request outside assistance.
Several other speakers complained that the town’s draft proposals would charge too much on beachfront properties. Some stated that the town’s assessment authority - which applies only to land value - was unfair and harmed smaller beach cottages.
“Our beaches are vulnerable,” said Council Member John Bach. “The question is, what are we going to do? This is going to be about a compromise.”