November 16, 2009

What Next for South Nags Head

The aftermath of the November nor'easter raises some interesting questions for the Town of Nags Head and Dare County.   The South Nags Head area has been hit hard while it appears that some parts of northern Nags Head actually gained sand from the storm.  I posted a slide show of photos form the storm in my Picasa gallery.  The photo to the left shows the area that demonstrates the challenges the town faces.  
This is the Seagull Dr. area.  Homes here have been sitting below the high tide line, protected by a large wall of sandbags, since hurricane Isabel.   The owner of the homes has added bags, replaced septic systems and generally done everything he could to keep the rental homes habitable.  The homes were protected by sandbags before Isabel and some people, including me, believe that these bags increased erosion directly to the south of the area. 
As the photo shows the bags have finally failed, the homes sit clearly in the ocean and sand and street behind the homes has been taken by the ocean.  IT IS TIME FOR THESE HOMES TO COME DOWN.  and this is the question facing local governments.  I have no doubt that the owner will apply for permits to haul sand to the site to fill in behind the homes and to install new sandbags.  He needs the sand so he can install new septic systems for the homes.   It may be that he will decide the ocean has finally won but this area has a history of coming back again and again and the owner has a history of appealing to the town for one more permit.  To his credit he has invested his money, not the public's, in protecting his homes but the town and the Dare County health department has enabled his actions by providing permits.
The Town has condemned the houses for a variety of reasons, no water, no septic and structural problems.  Water will be restored to the area to serve the homes in the next row to the east.  Likewise the town will have to help solve access problems for these homes as well.   This could involve restoring the gravel road that served this area for the past few years.  Hopefully the Town will look for access from the west, behind the homes rather than try to restore the road.  Physcially the homes can be restored, stairs replaced etc.  What is most problematic is the septic systems.  The Dare County Health dept has a history of providing septic permits that allow tanks and drain fields to be installed very close to the high tide line, right on the beach.  I suspect that county doesn't want to block reconstruction through inverse condemnation (the taking of property through permiting rather than purchase).  If the owner can't get septic permits then the properties are useless.    Don't count on the health dept to block reconstruction.
It will fall to the Town to take steps to insure the removal of these homes.  The town has the legal authority to force removal but it has proven problematic over the years.  Board members are loath to tell owners their homes have to go.  They hear passionate pleas about the financial loss and generally give owners one more chance.  Sometimes the owners just disappear, forcing the town to go to court to get the property torn down.  or the owners try to block the town by challenging its condemnation orders and fighting the battle in court hoping the town will tire and allow the home to used one more season.
The first round in this fight will come this Wed.  Undoubtedly the board will be asked to restore the road and the water lines.  The board will hear from property owners who want to rebuild. and reinstall sandbags walls to cut off the beach.  Hopefully the board will not follow their past path but will just say no.    Time will tell.
One Nags Head resident, commenting on my photos, put the issue in a very good perspective:
Sad to see South Nags Head as a construction waste dump which was totally avoidable if these "known" in the ocean houses were demolished by local business on a "calm day" rather than relying on our biggest ocean front demolisher, the Atlantic Ocean.
"Hopefully these places are going to be demolished and brought down.  Its sad to see South Nags Head as literally a dump for construction waste from all these "in the ocean" houses.  There should be a strong proactive movement to bring them all down in an orderly manner as compared to allowing the Atlantic to create this huge mess.


At 2:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's always someone who doesn't have ocean front property that wants to see these houses come down. When they've been in your family for over 60 years and your kids and grandkids have been coming there for years with many memories, you try to save what you can. In Florida, you can put up walls or whatever to protect your investment. It's their money, so let them try to protect their house anyway possible.

At 3:27 PM, Blogger BOBXNC said...

That's fine except for two things. First these homes haven't been in anyone's family for any length of time. They are rental cottages bought on a risky bet that they would generate enough rent to pay of the purchase price. There is no sentimental sob story here.
Even if there was there comes a point where the protection of homes with sandbags damages both the public beach and adjacent properties. The beach is a shared economic resource. I would argue that no property owner has a right to cause damage to the beach or other adjacent properties.

At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our home has been in our family for over 30 years and is not rented. We have never sand bagged or pushed sand. To my knowledge permanent sand bags were not legal. With no dunes on the beach front the center of town will soon become a giant pool of ocean water since its level is lower than the ocean front dune area. The dune line that was the last defense against the ocean has now been severely compromised. It's not just a matter of protecting a few beach front homes but a whole town. Explain that to thousands of people who call it home.

At 9:46 PM, Blogger BOBXNC said...

I don't disagree at all that the town needs to continue efforts to renourish the beach and rebuild the dunes. That is different from allowing homes already sitting in the ocean to continue to damage the public beach.
I have worked for nourishment for the 15 years. I continue to support it today but there comes a time when a location is unsustainable due to erosion. I am not sure where your home is or whether it was damaged but the homes I am talking about have used up all their beach pushes and bag permits and need to come down. It will help other home owners like you. If you can push then push and push the town to find a way to put sand on the beach. That is the way to protect peoples investments not by pouring good sand after bad on Seagull Dr.

At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Pearl said...

These houses have been in this state for at least 7 years. The sand is not coming back! They were incoming producing properties for out of towners. No one has ever lived in them. These people do not have the right to block public access on our beaches and compromise the houses around them. I see the damage they cause everytime the wind blows,I live behind them and fear for my home I LIVE IN ! Many people lost in investments recently all over the country,their 30 years of collecting ocean front rent has more than paid for them, it is pure greed and lack of concern for local residents.

At 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen, Pearl, Amen !

At 12:28 AM, Anonymous livin life on OBX said...

Whether the properties shown here have been in families for generations or not, they are tax payers. They deserve the ability to protect their properties. If they go into the ocean, then you may very well be next when the big storm hits! At least they are not gigantic hotels! They seem quite modest compared to the 3 story mini mansions!

At 9:37 AM, Anonymous pearl said...

dear living life on OBX, I loved the line"they are tax payers". So cliched. They write all of their rental income off,every so called update,every cup and dish and everything not new as depreciation.
Their sandbags caused all the erosion to the neighboring houses and the homes behind them! What about my rights to protect my home caused by their condemned houses. GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE SAND!These houses are still here because they do not want to lose their write off or pay to tear them done,plain and simple.


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