Some N. Topsail Beach owners want Surf City annexed
NORTH TOPSAIL BEACH – A group of landowners here hoping to salvage a proposed 50-year federal waterfront project North Topsail officials turned down last year due to funding issues and want to move out of bounds the city.
But when it comes to the specifics of how and what it would take for those with properties in the southern part of town to split off from North Topsail Beach and become part of neighboring Surf City, the likelihood of that happening actually does not happen. seem favorable to those who push out.
Emotions ran high at a special Friday, March 11 meeting called by the North Topsail Beach Board of Aldermen on behalf of Rep. Phil Shepard, R-Onslow, who had asked to hold a meeting on issues he had received from owners.
Shepard told the crowds of people standing in the council chambers on Friday that he was not taking sides, but rather was there to explain the legal process of de-annexation and annexation.
Owner George Fieser was the first to take to the podium to explain why he supports annexation of the ‘Phase 5’ area, a reference to the collapse of the North Topsail Beach waterfront for restoration and development projects. dunes.
Phase 5 is the southernmost 4½ miles of the city and is not included in the Coastal Barrier Resource System, or CBRS, a federal designation that prohibits government funding such as Agency money. Federal Emergency Management for system properties.
“We’re just a different community in this phase than other parts of the city,” Fieser said. “We have the opportunity for the next 50 years and we haven’t taken it. It’s not just me, but the state of North Carolina benefits.
Last year, North Topsail elected officials backed out of a proposed joint project with Surf City and the US Army Corps of Engineers that would provide routine power to the Phase 5 waterfront for 50 years.
After months of meetings, the city council concluded that while it supported the project, the city simply could not fund more than $33 million of the project’s cost.
The city still has about $14 million more to pay off the United States Department of Agriculture loan it took out to cover the cost of a beach project in Phase 5. The Government Commission North Carolina local would not allow the city to take on more debt.
Aldermen could not legally raise property taxes by the amount it would take to cover the joint project, the projected cost of which had risen exponentially since it was put on the table by the Corps years ago.
Last year, North Topsail Beach aldermen discussed asking the North Carolina General Assembly to vote to approve raising the city’s occupancy tax to generate additional revenue, a proposal that didn’t get far because of the powerful tourism lobby.
“No board member was against the project,” said North Topsail Mayor Joann McDermon. “It was, when it came to the money and how it would affect all the ratepayers in the city,” not something the city could afford.
According to city officials, annexation supporters are primarily landowners in one particular neighborhood, the village of Stump Sound, an area that consists largely of vacation rental homes along the beach and the his.
Shepard and a representative for North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore explained Friday that 100% of registered voters — that is, those claiming their North Topsail Beach home as their primary residence — in the phase 5 should vote for annexation to Surf City.
“It’s an expensive thing to get 100% of the people” to vote in favor of annexation, said Reed Abernathy, owner of the village of Stump Sound.
And, the Surf City City Council is expected to vote to approve the annexation of the nearly 5-mile stretch of Topsail Island.
If Surf City annexed, that city would take out the USDA loan, extending city services to additional properties, and would have to offer the more than $33 million portion of the joint project.
Surf City Mayor Doug Medlin said in a phone interview Monday that city officials there should review all potential costs associated with the Phase 5 annexation, if landowners can get the de-annexation of the land.
“We’ll be happy to talk to them if they opt out,” he said. “We can’t say anything about what we can do until they’re deannexed.”
This includes going to the Corps to find out if Phase 5 could be put back in the plans.
The General Assembly is the only governing body that can approve de-annexation.
“That vote can go either way at the General Assembly,” Shepard said. “If you’re unannexed and North Topsail shuts off water and sewers and everything, there’s a lot to watch.”
Owner Burgess Allison expressed support for annexation and suggested the state had a “huge” interest in moving the project forward.
“The Outer Banks have seen this success firsthand,” he said. “Here on Topsail Island, unfortunately, we are really stuck with the Old Town dividing lines that are getting in the way of moving that progress forward. Frankly, I think the state legislature, especially if the law requires 100% of every voter to register for something, the state legislature can see the benefits of the Corps project.
Several people in the audience applauded his comments.
Robert Box said that although he is not a full-time resident, as a landlord he wants to see the project move forward in North Topsail Beach.
“I’m not thrilled to hear that our interests don’t matter even though we’ve paid 100% of our property taxes,” he said. “It is a game-changer. This will preserve the legacy of the beaches for us. It is the house. We will never sell. If we miss this window, it won’t come back.
Some have suggested whether the best course of action is to ask Pender County, not Surf City, to annex.
The North Topsail Beach occupancy tax rate is 6% and the revenue generated is split equally between the city and Onslow County.
The northernmost stretch of Surf City is in Onslow County.
But in Pender County, Surf City gets the full 6%. The city allocates revenue generated from its 3% share to tourism-related activities and the money collected from the county tax goes to beach nourishment projects, according to the city’s website.
Sandy Cofier, a full-time resident who lives in the Ocean City area of Phase 5 in North Topsail Beach, said she supports the joint federal project but doesn’t want to be deannexed.
She urged the public to think about how long the area could go without municipal services if Phase 5 were to be de-annexed.
“How long does it take to be annexed?” ” she asked. “That’s a question everyone should be asking. We have to do something to fix the beaches.
“We’re working on it,” McDermon replied.
Phase 5 is currently receiving sand injections as part of a project that involves trucking sand to the island. Approximately 1,000 feet of waterfront will be replenished by April 30, when sand placement activities are scheduled to stop for sea turtle nesting season.
Sand transports are scheduled to resume for the remainder of Phase 5 in November. The FEMA project involves the placement of 636,000 cubic meters of sand along more than 12,000 feet of shoreline.