Coastal Review Online: Revamp set for beach access program rules

Kitty Hawk bathhouse. [Sam Walker photo]

Beach towns will get more financial support for projects to provide, improve and maintain public beach accesses in the first proposed changes to the state beach access program in at least 10 years.

Proposed changes would reorganize rules on grant administration, local government requirements and project selection, add maintenance of previously funded access sites as a new eligible activity for economically distressed counties and towns, and allow more flexibility for applying for grant-funded acquisition projects, according to a memorandum and fiscal analysis recently prepared by Division of Coastal Management staff.

The analysis is set to be presented to the state Coastal Resources Commission during its online meeting this week. The report is one of four fiscal analyses under the “action items” heading on the CRC’s agenda. The meeting is set for 1-2 p.m. Nov. 17 and 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Nov. 18 and will be held via Cisco’s WebEx platform.

Division staff said that funding for project maintenance to economically distressed communities will increase and enhance the public’s access to the state’s waterways and beaches in these communities. The proposed changes won’t have a direct financial impact on private property owners or the public but will provide indirect benefits “by providing and enhancing public access to the state’s beaches and waterways.”

Another recent Division of Coastal Management analysis covers proposed changes to state policies covering floating structures and gear used in North Carolina’s growing shellfish aquaculture industry, finding that the amendments shouldn’t create additional expenditures for local governments or the state and will likely clarify the permitting process.

The commission, which sets state coastal management policy, has discussed during recent meetings shellfish aquaculture leases and related public trust and Coastal Area Management Act jurisdictional issues and coordination with the Division of Marine Fisheries on possible rulemaking to address those issues. The commission is looking for ways to formalize the division’s role in reviewing leases and determine which activities might be suitable for CAMA permitting through CRC rulemaking.

In September, the commission approved amendments to policies covering floating structures to add specifics on floating upweller systems used in shellfish aquaculture and allow their use at private docks and marinas.

Another analysis on the agenda covers proposed changes to rules for issuing and renewing CAMA development permits. The amendments would define the commencement, continuation and extension of authorized development and are in response to an increasing number of permit renewal requests, corresponding with the increase in coastal population and development.

CAMA major permits are active until Dec. 31 of the third year from the date a permit is issued and are allowed an automatic two-year renewal. The proposed changes would lengthen the initial active period to five years from the date of permit issuance.

The changes would also address the increasing numbers of large, publicly sponsored, multi-phased beach renourishment projects. The proposed change would acknowledge the longer implementation period of these projects and allow for an initial active period of 10 years, with an additional 10-year renewal.

The rule change would also clarify the definition of “substantial development.”

The commission is also set to consider a fiscal analysis of rule changes approved in September that cover development line procedures and general use standards for Ocean Hazard Areas to clarify the types of development that are allowed oceanward of the setback line but are not allowed under current rules.

The related fiscal analysis has been submitted to the Office of State Budget and Management, but approval was pending, according to a Division of Coastal Management memorandum dated Nov. 2. Division staff are to recommend that the commission consider approval of the fiscal analysis conditioned on no substantial changes being requested by OSBM.

The commission is also expected to consider or discuss the following:

  • The re-authorization of static vegetation line exception for Atlantic Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, Indian Beach and Emerald Isle.
  • Amendments to rules concerning local governments and communities with approved local beach management plans.
  • Recommended rules for elevating oceanfront structures for flood mitigation.

Click here to view the full agenda