Editorial: Coastal Resources Commission Should Permit Both Sides To Speak On Variance Requests

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 18 November 2015 05:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

The North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) approved a variance requested by the Town of Carolina Beach to extend their 757' foot wooden oceanfront boardwalk another 875' feet north to Pelican Lane. (See page 1-A). The extension will run parallel to the ocean in an area between private properties and the beach. Currently the CRC takes written testimony from those in favor and opposition to such requests. There are times when the public can address the Commission, but not at meetings where a variance request will be ruled upon. However, the process permits the entity requesting the variance to address and interact with the Commission during such meetings. In this particular case there were hundreds upon hundreds of pages of material and correspondence from people favoring and opposing the Town's variance request. There were hundreds of pages of technical and legal information.
Did each member of the 13 member Commission actually read all of the material or the letters?
During the meeting there was no opportunity for the opposition to cross-examine the proponent - the attorney for the Town.
The process seems to assume that a Town Council seeking a variance has 100% support of those affected by a decision of the CRC. In fact, that's not true.
Had this been a quasi-judicial hearing before the Town Council, they would be required by law to afford all interested parties their due process rights such as cross examining the testimony of Town officials, applicants or their attorneys.
It's not a question of whether or not one agrees with this variance. It's a matter of facilitating a process that permits both sides the opportunity to argue their position in person rather than seemingly tipping the scales in favor of the very party asking for the variance. The CRC required the Town to notify adjacent property owners but other than a couple of people who spoke at a previous meeting on the issue, at Tuesday's meeting the CRC heard from one person, the attorney hired by the Town. It may take more of the Commission's time, but it would serve to promote equal treatment of all interested parties.

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