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Nags Head Board of Commissioners proposes extending current MSDs, establishing new ones

Nags Head commissioners met last Wednesday, spending a bulk of their time discussing the establishment of additional and expanded municipal service districts (MSDs) to fund beach nourishment.

An MSD is a defined area in which the governing authorities levy an additional property tax in order to provide extra services that will benefit the residents or properties in the service district. In Nags Head, those additional services include beach erosion control and drainage projects, which protect properties during floods and hurricanes. Beach nourishment is the process whereby sand is replaced on the shoreline in areas that are deemed vulnerable to erosion.

The town has completed two beach nourishment projects: the first in 2011 placing 4.6 million cubic yards of beach-compatible sand over ten miles of beaches at a cost of over $36 million and the second in 2019, which was partially funded through FEMA funds, placing 4.0 million cubic yards of sand at a cost of $40 million. Both projects were partially funded through the establishment of MSDs.

The discussion on additional and expanded MSDs is for the purpose of creating a 30-year plan to manage beach erosion and storm protection. And, according to deputy town manager Andy Garman, beach nourishment works. “After beach nourishment in 2011, we saw very little damage from Hurricane Sandy,” he said. He compared that to the damage sustained by Hurricane Isabel in 2003, which was substantially greater.

To establish MSDs, the town must follow the procedures laid out in NC General Statues, which include notifying community members of the proposed districts, opening up time for the public to voice opinions and reading and voting on the establishment at two municipal meetings. The next meeting will be on June 2.

Three community members spoke during the public hearing. Thirty-year Nags Head resident Bruce Nolte spoke in support of beach nourishment, though he supported a town-wide participation in the funding: “The Town of Nags Head only has one single asset, and that is the beach. That beach supports every single business in our town, and every single job in our town. There is not a citizen or resident that does not benefit from improvement to the one single asset that the town has…We would ask you to consider that all citizens benefit and therefore all citizens may have a role in funding beach nourishment.”

Mayor Ben Cahoon clarified that there is a town-wide tax that applies to beach nourishment, though the rates are subject to adjustment year to year. He also reiterated that the purpose of the discussion was to establish MSDs, not to establish tax rates, which may happen at a later date.

The board voted unanimously to establish the proposed MSDs, though the second reading and vote will occur at the June commissioners meeting.

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