Sand fatigue

By on February 21, 2011

Nags Head’s Board of Commissioners could build a ton of political goodwill if it would just put the brakes on beach nourishment.

While its rush to start pumping sand onto the beach by April has cheered South Nags Head property owners, it risks feeding further resentment among many of the town’s other taxpayers.

Even if it already had a list of contingencies ready when the latest push started more than a year ago, the continual rollout of trial balloons and new plans makes the board look desperate and stubborn.

Last week, the latest version took the town full circle from a bond referendum that was rejected in 2007. Unable to get enough oceanfront owners to voluntarily foot the bill by signing a petition and sparing the rest of the town, the Board of Commissioners now says it wants to tax everybody another 2 cents.

That would be in addition to 16 cents per $100 of value in two oceanfront tax districts also established last week.


Making everyone share responsibility sounds logical, especially if it is in response to a backlash from oceanfront owners who resent having to carry all of the freight. But this is the fourth variation of the plan, give or take a few tweaks, in the past year. And it closely resembles the failed referendum, when voters indicated they were not interested in shared responsibility.

The 2007 referendum called for adding 5.54 cents to the townwide property tax rate and another 32.08 cents along the oceanfront to pay back a $24 million bond over five years. The difference this time is that the town’s share of occupancy tax revenue would guarantee a $10 million bond. So the town doesn’t need the blessing of voters for collateral. It just needs to raise the money to pay off the loan. The rest of the 10-mile project, now estimated at $36 million, would be funded by the county.

Commissioners and the town’s staff can be applauded for perseverance in securing federal and state permits. You could also give the board some credit for commitment, even if you believe, rightly or not, that beach nourishment is misguided and serves a minority of moneyed interests.

But to move forward with seeking bids for a $36 million project before securing the funding makes the town look reckless. It looks that way even if town leaders are confident that they will earn the blessing of the state’s Local Government Commission, which makes sure plans for bond issues are fiscally sound but will not rule on Nags Head’s plan until April 6. 

The town probably should have hired a public relations firm with some of the $1 million or so it has already spent. But the PR people might have been confused by now, too.

Legal problems could downshift the steamroller. Several property owners have filed a class-action suit challenging the town’s procedure for securing easements, which basically say sign here within 30 days or we’ll condemn. It’s a legal process known as a quick taking, which creates another perception, this one of the town being a bully.  

Maybe the lawsuit will provide a cooling down period to let us all catch our breaths. At least it might allow some time for the idea to sink in that 2 cents only amounts to $5 a month on a $300,000 house. The beach will still be here next year.

This column originally appeared in The Virginian-Pilot.

Related story: New sand plan calls for a townwide tax increase »


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March 18, 2011 9:56 am

I am constantly disappointed at the lack of foresight shown by my fellow outer bankers. Even as a child I understood the importance of outside investment to the quality of life here.

The people who work and save all their lives to own a piece of their dream on OBX are just as important as us natives. The damage caused by erosion is just as devastating albeit not as fast as a hurricane. However none of our neighbors have ever hesitated to offer everything to help protect against storms.

It is time for all to understand that our lives and livelihoods are all interlinked whether you grew up here or not. The dunes on our shores were created by a beach nourishment project in the 30′s. These dunes lasted for 80 years and turned OBX from an overwash into the bird paradise it is today.

It is imperative we come together as a community and protect our investments here. Class envy will not prove our employment numbers. It requires no leadership to oppose an initiative. It requires great leaders to come to the aid of their neighbors and offer constructive ideas to protect all our investments.


February 26, 2011 12:11 pm

BARR J The GOV bailouts have done nothing for this country but wreak havoc on it (look at or economy )just like N.H.taking our money against or will for your personal GAIN! PAYBACK Will come.


February 25, 2011 3:15 pm

Only if the taxpayers support it. I, for one, did buy a GM vehicle in 2010.

barry j. brockway

February 25, 2011 9:00 am

most of you (as boehner and demint)were also probably against the bailout of GM. In twenty months after the bailout GM has turned a five billion dollar profit, 80,000 thousand people are still employed and we the citizens own 27% of the company. government intervention does work.

barry j. brockway

February 25, 2011 8:53 am

is it possible for one of you naysayers to explain what the county is going to do with 30 million dollars (and growing annually) collected as 1% of the occupancy tax for the sole purpose of beach nourishment? When is it going to sink in that these monies must be used for this purpose? this is not discretionary funding. i do not think you can return these monies collected back to the renters.


February 24, 2011 7:28 pm

By then you will be done depreciating it and slap a For Sale sign on it. No doubt using any one of Nags Head BOC’s companies.

The Taxpayer

February 24, 2011 6:25 pm

Better buy a raft Barry, because beach nourishment will never happen! Between existing law suits and the environmentalists that will be shifting their efforts to Nags Head now that they’ve effectively killed Cape Hatteras, this thing is dead on arrival. And by the way, my wife and I are enjoying our wine on our deck this evening, as well; however our view isn’t taxpayer funded!


February 24, 2011 6:06 pm

Barry j NO doubt your from up north you have no CLUE how this OCEAN works , Trust me YANK payback is a big B An the OCEAN is the one thats going to COLLECT (funny how some people feel about other peoples money when it benefits only them)

barry j. brockway

February 24, 2011 4:49 pm

dear jeff, it was the best decision my wife and i ever made. as a matter of fact we are right now enjoying a glass of wine on the deck as we watch the pelicans fly by. we love south nags head and the pelican park subdivision. we have enjoyed the house for over six years and hope to enjoy it for another ten after beach nourishment.


February 24, 2011 7:58 am

Maybe so Barry, but I don’t need “Eye on Dare” to tell me you made a poor decision when you purchased beachfront property in South Nags Head. It’s not the taxpayer’s responsibility to bail you out!

barry j. brockway

February 23, 2011 4:26 pm

jeff, and if you listen to the comments from the “eye on dare’ blog you may also beleive great lakes is a non-reputable company. the company has been in this business for 115 years,it is publicly traded on the nasdaq and just had record earnings for the last year.


February 23, 2011 11:50 am

You just know there will be a cost overrun with the cheapest bid and it will end up costing more than the highest bidder.


February 22, 2011 9:18 pm

Stack the money in bales on the beach, and let the Ocean take the money. It will be more efficient, and produce the same outcome.


February 22, 2011 7:26 pm

Oh Barry, consider this, borrowed from Eye on Dare:

The “caveats” in all three of the bids were enough to give anyone nightmares. For example, according to the winning bid, the town will be charged as much as $2.4 million per mobilization/demobilization costs each time the project has to be completely shut down due to bad weather. In addition, there is a $180,000 per day suspension cost any time the project is shut down by governmental agencies for such things as turtle mishaps or other environmental problems. This alone, will eat up $1 million in less than a week’s time.

barry j. brockway

February 22, 2011 3:05 pm

It is possible the Town of Nags Head Commissioners were correct in moving forward quickly as a bid from Great Lakes came in at 5.80 a cubic yard to put sand on the beach. That appears to be an 8 to 10 million dollar savings over the other two bidders. Most savy contractors will sharpen their pencils during a recession.


February 22, 2011 7:58 am

THEIR all going to be VOTED OUT!


February 22, 2011 3:29 am

Very well said. The town officals could further gain voter support and respect if they looked at other town issues for a change. We are tired of hearing about the beach problem, which will always be a problem because erosion is forever, meanwhile we cannot stand the stench of the Village of Nags Head wastewater treatment sewer plant, and the sting of the taxes and association fees on residents. The west side of Nags Head may just contain more voters guys! Oh, just not the important ones.

angry voter

February 21, 2011 1:40 pm

Start a recall!!

Nags Header

February 21, 2011 12:12 pm

Job security for town attorneys, eh.
How did it become us(voting citizens) against them(elected officials)?
& we’re footing ALL of the bills… including legal fees.
Who has the upper hand here? Duh!
What’s wrong w/ this picture?:S

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