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Still Dividing b unset
BY SUSAN USHER
Development of a regional sewer system, the future
of a small island straddling the North Carolina/South
Carolina line and talk about a new bridge to the island
dominated attention at Sunset Beach during 1994, along
with a movement toward formalizing through island se
cession what some property owners viewed as a grow
ing schism of islanders and mainlanders.
Plans for a new town hall and efforts to improve the
local volunteer fire department moved forward during
the year, and beautification and litter control continued
to be a unifying force among townspeople.
A motion to explore island secession failed 24 to 19
in a vote at the Sunset Beach Taxpayers Association
Easter weekend, but the idea gained momentum and
passed a Labor Day weekend vote by a wide margin af
ter a committee circulated its "Proposal for Independent
"The future of our town, the island included, is cer
tain not to be saved by a small number of malcontents,"
said Mayor Pro-tern Ed Gore, whose father was the
community's original developer. "There arc those
among us who will never give credit to the benefactors
responsible for what we have at Sunset Beach."
Gore termed the proposal "self-serving and opinion
ated misinformation put forth by fearmongers."
The proposal advocating independence asserted that
islanders ? whose numbers are being outpaced by
growth and town annexations on the mainland ? had not
been adequately served by or represented in town gov
ernment, and contended the island's tax base was ade
quate to create a new town.
? *-l of Cj?lf I i,i i n ? Ar.ru
onoge non ynn uncertain
The rift was reflected in the continuing debate over
the nature of the bridge linking mainland and Island,
with Sunset Beach's property owners still nowhere near
a consensus. In a book maintained by an island business,
thousands of vacationers as well as local residents wrote
mainly of the piclurcsqucness and appeal of the existing,
single-lane pontoon swing bridge to vacationers and per
manent residents, while elsewhere others portrayed the
bridge as impractical and a potential death trap for is
Engineering consultants to the state Department of
Transportation drew plenty of comment on Dec. 6 when
they presented computer-generated photographic i
views of three "feasible-buildable" alternatives E? i -
for a new bridge to the island during a public
workshop at Sea Trail Plantation. Alternatives
offered consumers included a 65-foot fixed span
placed either in the center corridor (essentially
the existing corridor) or along a western corridor,
or a mid-level 30-foot bascule along the center
tumaor. inese mree options, plus "no build" '
and rehabilitation alternatives will be considered in a
draft environmental impact statement due out for public
comment in spring of 1995.
The environmental impact statement had been or
dered by a federal judge in February 1990 after a suc
cessful legal challenge by the Sunset Beach Taxpayers
Association, which questioned whether the effect of a
new bridge on the human and natural environments had
been considered fully.
Sewer Authority Seeks Favorable Finding
A directive to prepare a full environmental impact
statement was exactly what Piedmont Olsen Hensley en
gineering consultants to the South Brunswick Water and
Sewer Authority were trying to avoid throughout much
The authority hired an out-of-town law firm to guide
its 201 facilities plan and environmental assessment for
a $35.6 million project through the state approval and
permitting process, and engineers completed additional
studies in the hope of receiving the finding of no signifi
cant impact (FONSI) needed to complete its funding
plan based on a combination of state loans, authority-is
sued revenue bonds and other instruments, plus cus
tomer fees and charges.
The state Division of Environmental Management
circulated a proposed FONSI in mid-December, but took
several weeks to review and address extensile com
ments of parties including such as the Sunset Beach
Taxpayers Association and the N.C. Coastal Federation
and others, and equally lengthy responses from the
Authority. As of Dec. 25, the FONSI had still not been
The SBTA had threatened possible legal action if the
town of Sunset Beach participated in a sewer project
1 that did not concurrently plan and develop
9 1 ? ?? * H
siormwater management. It asked for a full en
vironmental impact statement to identify and
plan mitigation steps to offset environmental
impact and to ensure that enforceable
stormwater plan existed prior to approval. The
authority believed both issues had been ad
dressed fully in its environmental assessment.
Authority Chairman George Knott named a
citizens' advisory committee to begin developing a
stormwater management proposal, with the cost of the
system to be borne proportionally by those contributing to
.stormwater runoff, rather than by all authority customers.
Focus On Bird Island
A family's interest, in developing its property and a
public effort to protect one of the last undeveloped barri
er islands on North Carolina's southern developed into a
year-long sparring match as the future prospects of Bird
Island and its "Kindred Spirits" mailbox drew not only
local, but national attention.
Island owner Janie P. Price, represented by her son,
Rces Poag, as well as a consulting engineer and an attor
ney, continued seeking permits to develop the island's
33 acres of scattered uplands. It remained unclear
whether the family was planning full-scale development
of the island, had intentions of selling it to developers,
or was simply using the process to establish the worth of
the property to others.
At mid-year the state Division of Coastal Manage
ment joins the U.S. Coast Guard in deciding the family
of Jane P. Price of Greensboro would need to conduct a
full environmental impact study ? a usually costly and
time-consuming review ? before proceeding with plans
to develop the island just west of Sunset Beach island.
In December, though, the Coast Guard's 5th District an
nounced an EIS would not be required, only an environ
mental assessment. Staff said they had received new in
formation that suggested the impact would be less than
Rep. David Redwine introduced a bill in the N.C.
House of Representatives to set aside $1 million toward
state purchase and preservation of the island, saying lat
er it was the most popular bill he had introduced. The re
quest wasn't funded, because other conservation acqui
sition projects were "ready to go," but it wasn't shelved
either. Lawmakers left the door open for consideration
should the opportunity arise during the year to buy the
island. That opportunity never came.
Members of the Bird Island Preservation Society ap
plied to the Coastal Resources Commission seeking ad
ditional protection for the island through its designation
as a coastal complex area of environmental concern
(AEC). If approved the designation would have require
the state to develop a management plan for the island's
development and protection of its natural resources.
Despite a staff recommendation to the contrary, the
CRC voted in October to proceed with the AEC nomina
tion, but in November reverses that decision, saying the
island had adequate protection through existing AEC
designations and through existing federal, state and town
"If the public wants to preserve this land," said
Commissioner Timothy Thornton, "they need to cough
up the money to buy this land."
In 1993, after lengthy study, the Town of Sunset
Beach had placed unzoned Bird Island in a conservation
reserve district that would allow low-density single-fam
ily development on buildable uplands. This past year the
Price family, informally and then formally, petitioned
the town to amend the zoning to allow denser develop
ment by decreasing lot size, increasing the number of
bedrooms and decreasing the oceanfront setback. In
December the town council unanimously upheld its
1993 zoning, turning down the proposal.
Acting as his mother's agent, Poag appealed
Brunswick County's revaluation of Bird Island from
$539,000 (its value in 1986) to $1.6 million. The valua
tion had been based on the premise that 85 acres could
be developed, but a 1993 study commissioned by Sunset
Beach indicated only 33 acres were buildable ? worth a
$634, 000 tax cut for Mrs. Price.
On a lighter note, beautification volunteers erected
the town's first lighted Christmas tree on the N.C. 179
median approaching the bridge and saw a high turnout
for the annual Big Sweep in September.
When a family is looking for a
home or vacation home, they
want to know more than which
ones are for sale.
Smart home buyers look for
more than a real estate guide
when they are moving to a new
They look for a
guide to the
not only lists
what homes are on the market,
but tells them important things
they need to know about the
area in which they may move
or invest. The Beacon provides
insight into the community that
you can't find in any other
source that also provides list
ings of homes
And that's why
sellers get such
homes are list
ed for sale in
the real estate
advertising section of The
Brunswick Beacon. If you have
a house for sale and it's not list
ed in the Beacon, call us.. .or
call your Realtor.
POST OFFICE BOX 2558
TELEPHONE (910) 754-6890*FAX (910) 754-5407
SHALLOTTE, NC 28459