Editorial: Equitable Beach Nourishment Funding

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 03 June 2015 04:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

The Carolina Beach Town Council will consider sending a letter at their June 9th, meeting to New Hanover County asking for a six month extension for a 2011 agreement between the County and beach towns on a contingency plan to fund beach nourishment projects should federal funding dry up in the future.
Funding for projects to pump sand onto area beaches is currently split 65 percent federal funding and 35 percent from the State of North Carolina and the County's Room Occupancy Tax (ROT). The 35% is split 50-50.
The inter-local agreement signed in 2011 by the beach towns and the County says if federal and state funding are non-existent, the County will pay 82.5 percent from the ROT fund while the beach towns each would pay 17.5 percent.
The 2011 agreement will expire this month. The Town wants a six-month extension instead of the four-year renewal in order to sit down and work with the County and City of Wilmington to modify the agreement to be more equitable.
Mayor Wilcox commented earlier this month the Town generates property and Room Occupancy taxes for the County and since the beach towns make up a small portion of the County population, they have to support infrastructure to support tourists visiting County beaches. Therefore, there needs to be a discussion about the inter-local agreement and funding split.
These are all excellent points. However, when the County agreed to allow Carolina Beach to charge for vehicle access to the North End beach (Freeman Park) years ago, no one knew it would generate enough money to warrant the Town dedicating at least $350,000 a year from park revenues after expenses for shore protection and inlet dredging projects.
When the discussion about equitable beach nourishment funding occurs, Carolina Beach leaders should remember the County has already given them a unique alternate revenue source to help fund such projects. It wasn't the original intent, but as Freeman Park grew in popularity, so did the revenues.
Additionally, the County gave the Town of Carolina Beach $500,000 to help fund renovation of the ocean front wooden Boardwalk in the downtown area which was completed earlier this year.
Those items should not be overlooked. Especially for Freeman Park. It's a county beach outside of Town limits and the Town charges people to enjoy it through vehicle access permits and charging for camping. With practically no useful amount of public parking surrounding the park, the only way to enjoy it is to live nearby or pay to drive into the park. Parking and walking in for free is not a practical option. 
The 2011 inter local agreement certainly needs review and perhaps some adjustment, but while Carolina Beach has Freeman Park as a popular revenue generating destination, perhaps they are already gaining a County-authorized source of revenue that Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach cannot enjoy simply because of geography. Beyond the obvious tourism marketing points, Wilmington should certainly chip in since they are known as a destination with three area beaches protected by lifeguard programs paid for by beach towns. Not to mention the bonus on their property tax values.

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