By Michael Praats | April 23, 2021 at 3:53 PM EDT – Updated April 23 at 8:25 PM
OAK ISLAND, N.C. (WECT) – The Town of Oak Island, like other coastal towns, has been struggling with beach nourishment funding. Recently, the town decided on an option to charge residents of the beach town to split the $40 million price tag; however, on Thursday, town officials agreed to postpone assessing any fees, and explore all other options.
The multimillion-dollar project will be put on hold until January but taxpayers are not out of the woods yet, unless other funding for the project is secured, property owners could be facing steep fees to pay for the sand.
“During their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 13, 2021, the Oak Island Town Council approved the establishment of four (4) Beach Benefit Zones. Previously referred to as “Service Districts” these Benefit Zones define the areas which the Beach Nourishment Master Plan assessments will be applied,” according to the town.
Basically, these zones are an effort to make the fees more evenly distributed based on how much a homeowner would benefit from more sand. For example, a beachfront home would benefit significantly more than someone inland.
“The Town Council has reviewed multiple funding options and scenarios to support the Master Plan. After months of review, and discussion with the financial consulting firm advising the Council on this effort, the Assessment Option was decided as the most equitable and feasible option available,” according to the town.
“Other options, such as a Town-wide tax, were viewed as inequitable to those without the benefit of direct oceanfront access; while others, such as tolls or industry service fees, were not a legally available option to the Town.”
The town has reached out to county leaders as well as lawmakers in Raleigh with the hopes of getting some sort of help paying for the beach nourishment projects but so far, have been unsuccessful.
Some neighbors have started a grassroots effort to ask the town to rethink its plans of assessing residents, and find a more equitable way to shoulder the burden.
J.T. Marriotte, a resident opposed to the ‘benefits zone’ plan, says the town’s efforts are pitting neighbors against each other and dividing the town, based on where they live.
“They’re calling it benefit zones and out of those benefit zones there are residents like myself that are just saying wait, there’s got to be a better way. And we know that there is. This is not a locally owned beach, this is not a personally owned beach; it is a North Carolina Beach,” she said.
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