March 17, 2006

N&O Rising Coastal Concerns

The N&O published an editorial Tuesday March 14th that discusses the work of the Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change. Being the N&O they use the opportunity to call for revisions to the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA), the state law that sets parameters for development in the coastal counties. A specific term caught my eye
"North Carolina also has a more immediate, and related, issue to tackle -- overdevelopment [emphasis added]in coastal counties. Its harmful effects are incontrovertible now. Lawmakers prudently passed the Coastal Area Management Act in 1974, to protect the shore from the congested, ugly development rampant elsewhere. Developers since then have found more and more ways to circumvent CAMA's farsighted rules.
The use of the non-specific term "overdevelopment" echoes Dr. Stan Riggs comments before the commission which I have cited before. The N&O may not like current development patterns on the coast but at least in Dare County (If not all the NC Coast) CAMA has done exactly what it was intended to do. It has prevented urban style high rise ocean front development. Towns have chosen different patterns of development and every Dare County town has been taking steps to limit the size of new homes and development in general. I am not sure what the N&O has in mind for CAMA but it needs to be very careful. If they think the NC legislature is going to be a better steward of the coast than local governments they had better revisit reality. The level of influence of homebuilders and realtors in the legislature is not going to allow any meaningful changes to CAMA and could quite possibly have the reverse effect, allowing a lowest common denominator for development statewide that reduces local control of development and increases the intensity of development rather than achieving the the N&O's goal of reducing development.
The editorial goes to to bemoan the threat of coastal storms and damage "The result is costlier storm-related damage to homes and other structures. That costs every North Carolinian (and every American) when emergency management agencies must clean up after a disaster." Two contradictions here, first this paper has railed against federal nourishment projects engineered and proven in this state to protect against coastal damage. See the work of Spencer Rogers on the performance of nourished beaches during hurricane Floyd. If you want to prevent hurricane damage support programs designed to do exactly that, then go look at the taxpayer dollars spent in Raleigh and across the state for hurricane damage, If you want to prevent storm damage cut down all the trees in Wake County or prohibit development in the mountains, regrettably they have suffered much more damage than the coast in recent years.
The N&O rails about pollution on the coast while Raleigh and other eastern NC towns pour millions of gallons of raw sewage in to the rivers every year. Sprawl around Raleigh and in the Triangle is part of the problem with global warming. Stop pointing fingers at the coast without at least some recognition of your own culpability.
Finally back to the question about revising CAMA. I am sure there are elements that could be improved but a better step is that the land use planning that CAMA requires be done across the state. Establish statewide rules for development in sensitive areas, stop the Bush administration from selling off our public forests and cutting roads to nowhere through the rest.
According to one comment here, the coast can't be overdeveloped because the definition of overdeveloped is when people say a community is overdeveloped. The people elect the councils that promulgate the development rules; ergo the people get what they want through local elections and the community is not overdeveloped. (OK, I'll stop trying to give Ray Midgett a heart attack and be a bit more serious here). Local governments in Dare County have done a good job of limiting growth, Look at Kitty Hawk and Southern Shores. I don't agree with some of their choices, (I don't think big box stores are a positive influence) but it is hard to say they are overdeveloped in any fashion. How would these communities be helped by the wisdom of Raleigh or even the wisdom of county government in Manteo ruling their fate. Quite simply, they wouldn't. Let local government make decisions about local development with the state setting minimum standards in sensitive areas. This is the current CAMA system and its results have been very positive. If there are loopholes (start with better protection of isolated wetlands) then fix them but don't try to overhaul the system. Its not broken.


At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's your take on what has been success of CAMA's 2000 study whereby it attempted to define weakness and improve the effectiveness of its statewide land use plan?
And, what's you take on what appears to be a big push by some appointees within CAMA to relax the rules and give oceanfront property owners more leeway in building (once more) too close to the ocean following beach nourishment?
It appears they want to use the argument that nourished vegetation on nourished beach should become the new marking line for building setbacks. Quite foolish, I would say, given that even CAMA acknowledes that a nourished beach washes away quicker than a natural beach. With that said, will they also increase the expected annual erosion rates accordingly? Bet not! And, surely this action would not lead to more development, would it?
In this regard, I think its time that all the towns on the Outer Banks asked CAMA "who" is wanting these changes? No one here on the OBX has heard a whimper about it; and surely, since it will not fit well with voters who will be asked to pay for beach nourishment, can we assume the biggest push is coming form the southern coastal part of our State, where nouishment already has its weak, but nonetheless grassy roots?

At 9:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is a dangerous slippery slope and our present rules are not enforced enough. In one hand you have towns clamoring and begging for federal and state monies to dump unsavory dredge sand on their beaches year after year to "save their homes" and in the next breath after they receive nourishment, and the vegetation/property lines are extended (temporarily of course) they want to change the rules to their advantage. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. Enough is enough. CAMA and our beach towns need to better enforce existing rules and stop this senseless sand bag city that is engulfing our beautiful beaches. These sandbags that are "approved" by CAMA as temporary measures are NEVER temporary and rarely taken off the beach, but continually replaced with more. These sandbags are nothing less then seawalls and are further encouraging beach erosion and they are unsightly. They are not helping property owners or towns, they're only making it worse. And one needs to look no further then to the Town of NH, where south nags head has been ruined by them. The Town of NH needs to say enough is enough. Beach pushing, a popular occurance in SNH is alo given a blind eye when town officials do not do anything to stop it. These folks in SNH and the Town even, continually use bull dozers to push sand from the water line up around their "castles". This pushing is making their beaches worse! When beach pushing occurs, you are making a narrower, steeper beach. Yet this practice goes on year after year without any one from CAMA or the Towns to do anything to stop. But, these same property owners expect public money to be spent on nourishment projects. I say end the beach pushing. If beach nourishment ever happens on the Outer Banks, our town leaders need to be PRO_ACTIVE and pass legislature NOW that forbids this practice. After all, what good will beach Nourishment do if property owners pull out their Bobcats and push it up around their homes? Our town officals pushing for Beach Nourishment keep promising a wide beach that everyone can enjoy as a benefit. What wide, public beach will be left if owners are allowed to carry on like they have been with no oversight or enforcement? What wide beach will be left if owners continually push the beach and continually make the beach steeper and narrower?

Both rules against beach pushing and increased set-backs are legislature that is smart for the Towns. After all if BN is supposed to "save infrastructure" like it's touted, why not encourage INCREASED set-backs and outlaw any "scarping" or beach pushing? That would be smart, long-term planning if beach nourishment is EVER to happen. If public monies and taxes are going to be used to pay for these projects then that would be the smart thing for Nags Head to do. And people also need to realize that yes, even with BN, someone MAY (god forbid) loose their home(s). It's not a guarantee, cure-all. And it certainly isn't going to work like these towns are promising.


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