Inlet Hazard Areas

Inlet Hazard Areas

Previously reported – January 2019
New proposed rules could significantly impact real estate property values
Significantly expands area covered on the island
by .4 miles on the east end
by 1.7 miles on the west end
Coastal Resource Commission report to be presented at their February meeting

Panel Proposes Redrawn Inlet Hazard Areas
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Coastal Resources Commission
CRC Science Panel / Inlet Hazard Area (IHA) Delineation Update
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Previously reported – March 2019
CRC Advances New Inlet Hazard Maps, Rules
The North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission has approved preliminary boundaries and building rules at inlets. Though official adoption of the redrawn inlet hazard area, or IHA, maps and guidelines for development within those areas is still months away, the CRC’s decision last week puts the state one step closer to amending the current outdated maps.

North Carolina Division of Coastal Management Director Braxton Davis told members of the commission at the quarterly meeting Thursday that the regulatory agency understands the revised maps are going to be a topic of controversy in the coastal towns at inlets. “These maps were done in 1981,” he said. “We have IHAs that don’t even capture some of these areas.” A little more than 2,900 acres of land is designated as IHA at 10 of the 19 active inlets in the state. The 10 are: Tubbs, Shallotte and Lockwood Folly inlets in Brunswick County; Carolina Beach, Masonboro, Mason and Rich inlets in New Hanover County; New Topsail Inlet in Pender County; New River Inlet in Onslow County; and Bogue Inlet in Carteret County. The CRC approved removing IHA designations at inlets where the adjacent land is undeveloped and owned either by the state or federal government.

IHAs are defined as shorelines especially vulnerable to erosion and flooding where inlets can shift suddenly and dramatically. Inlets typically move over time in one of two ways. An inlet migrates, meaning it moves in one general direction, or it oscillates, wagging back and forth. A majority of the state’s inlets oscillate. Long-term erosion rates are about five times greater at oceanfront shorelines near inlets. The proposed maps expand current IHAs collectively by a little more than 1,359 acres while removing about 470 acres from existing boundaries at the 10 developed inlets. A majority of IHAs are being expanded under the proposed boundaries. The preliminary maps place an additional 152 acres and 243 structures within an ocean hazard area of environmental concern, or AECs. Ocean hazard AECs are defined as those that may be easily destroyed by erosion or flooding or may have environmental, social, economic or aesthetic values that make it valuable to the state.

Rules governing development within IHAs were established to control density and structure size along the shorelines affected by the dynamic waterways. The proposed setbacks have been established through years of work by the science panel that advises the CRC. The science panel studied historical shoreline data at each inlet, then used that information to predict erosion and accretion rates at those inlets. DCM has established building setbacks in the new boundaries based on the annual inlet erosion rates rather than the oceanfront erosion rates now. For some of the inlets, this method of calculation equates to no change in the current building setbacks. For others, the setbacks vary. Current rules do not allow lots about one-third of an acre in size to be subdivided. Residential structures of four units or fewer or nonresidential structures of less than 5,000 square feet are only allowed on lots within an IHA. The updated rules maintain the size limitation to no more than 5,000 square feet of heated space and remove restrictions on the number of units allowed in a structure. Larger structures that would be included in the new boundaries would be grandfathered under the rules.

North Topsail Beach Alderman Mike Benson expressed his concerns about condominiums at the north end of town that would be grandfathered in under the new maps. Benson told the commission during a public hearing on the proposed IHA map changes that the revised boundary at New River Inlet would include 11 buildings that are all larger than 5,000 square feet. If any of those buildings were to be destroyed in a hurricane or fire, Benson wanted to know if they could be rebuilt. DCM shoreline management specialist Ken Richardson clarified that structures between 5,000 and 10,000 square feet could be rebuilt to the same footprint. The owners of a structure greater than 10,000 square feet, such as Shell Island Resort in Wrightsville Beach, could request a variance from the CRC to rebuild. Richardson said he will turn over DCM’s recommended changes to the state Office of State Budget and Management for review. Once that office confirms its findings, a series of public meetings will be held where the public will get an opportunity to comment on the maps and rules. Richardson said he hopes those meetings will kick off some time in the spring and that revised maps are adopted by year’s end. If adopted, the new IHA boundaries would be updated every five years.
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Previously reported – April 2019
Development rules near inlets have been basically the same since 1981.
This year that could change
Over 1,000 inlet-adjacent acres in the Cape Fear region could soon be subject to an additional set of state development regulations. At the same time, 500 acres could be removed from the same regulatory designation designed to limit risky development near dynamic inlet shorelines.
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Holden Beach Property Owners Association / Inlet Hazard Areas
The Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) has established new boundaries for Inlet Hazard Areas on each end of the island, greatly increasing the number of properties that fall within this designation. The CRC determined the new IHA boundaries based on historic vegetation line data. The CRC sent the rules to the State for review. After review there will be public comment before the rule are put in place.

Inlet Hazard Areas (IHAs) are sections of islands that are more vulnerable to erosion due to the impact of the inlets. The new maps show Holden Beach will be hit hard, especially on the West End.

The West End currently has 15 lots in the IHA, which will go up to 173 lots, and includes all the oceanfront properties from roughly Sailfish to the end of the island. The area will increase from 290.5 acres to 569.3 acres, almost double in size. This will be the largest IHA in the state.

The East End will also see changes. The IHA there is 64 acres and will jump to 189.5 acres – an almost 200% increase in size. Currently, there are 52 lots in the IHA, which will increase to 156.

Visit our website to see the maps and determine if your property is impacted by the new IHA boundaries.

What Does It Mean?

1) Structures (residential or commercial) will be limited to 5000sf of heated space. Existing larger structures would be grandfathered and could be rebuilt if destroyed.

2) Insurance is impacted for homes in an IHA.

3) New development would require lots with a minimum of around one-third acre.

4) The ability to have a concrete slab under a home might be restricted in some cases, as impervious surfaces at ground level may not be allowed

It is not clear what impact the changes will have on property values and the Town’s tax base – if any.

Update –