by Tyler Younts
The Outer Banks Voice is reporting that sand from the recent beach nourishment project in Nags Head, NC is starting to drift westward, covering walkways and filling in property owners’ backyards and swimming pools. From the OBX Voice:
Some of the sand that was pumped onto the beaches during the town’s massive widening project two years ago is not sliding back into the ocean. Instead, it’s piling up and over the dune line, mainly south of The Village at Nags Head.
Last week, the Nags Head Board of Commissioners enacted an emergency exception to an ordinance banning bulldozers from the beach so that property owners can move the sand back where it belongs.
This is an ironic twist on a property rights issue coming up frequently along the NC coast. It is now common for local governments that intend to widen beaches to demand that homeowners give them easements across their properties to allow worker access and to park heavy equipment during beach nourishment projects. But many times the local governments don’t offer any compensation in return. They argue that the future benefit to the property owners from the beach widening counts as just compensation for the taking of the easement.
If owners don’t voluntarily agree to a free easement, there is a state statute (G.S. 40A-40 et seq) that allows the town to simply file a declaration of taking in court, which automatically transfers title to the property (or easement) to the town. The process is referred to as “quick take” because it bypasses normal condemnation procedures. Quick take is a threat to property rights for many reasons, which I won’t get into here.
It’s unclear how widespread this new sand drift problem is, but it would certainly seem to undercut the arguments that the benefits of beach widening will necessarily cancel out any just compensation that would otherwise be due to property owners when their property interests are condemned.