The Town Council of Southern Shores voted Monday, May 3 to establish municipal service districts (MSD), though the discussion whether to use MSDs to fund beach nourishment is ongoing.
The council voted to establish two municipal service districts: District 1, which includes all properties that abut the ocean beach of the Atlantic Ocean having an eastern boundary greater than or equal to 25 feet, beginning at the southern town limit and extending to the northern town limit; and District 2, which includes all properties in District 1; and all properties located east of Ocean Blvd./NC 12 and Duck Road/NC12 beginning at the southern town limit extending north to the northern town line; and all properties located west of and abutting Ocean Blvd./NC 12 beginning at the southern town line extending north to 137 Ocean Blvd. and abutting Duck Road/NC 12 beginning at 139 Duck Road extending north to 149 Duck Road.
Council members are feeling pressure from the community regarding establishing MSDs to fund beach nourishment. Some residents are fine with different tax rates, others want the entire town to be taxed at the same rate and some others don’t want an increase at all.
Council member Elizabeth Morey said, “I really appreciate everyone who has emailed us, called us, showed up for public comment tonight. I read every email. Even if you end up disappointed, don’t think I haven’t heard you. I have. But I’m likely going to disappoint you.”
Council member Leo Holland agreed: “This is the toughest decision I’ve had to make while serving on this town council.”
According to Holland, if the town chooses not to do beach nourishment at this time, the grant money offered by the county may not be available in the future. “Do we want to roll the dice?” he said. “We need to protect the beach . . . We need to establish an MSD, the question after that is how we tax it.”
“We may not get an opportunity to do this again,” said Mayor Tom Bennett. “The source of the funds is drying up. They can’t keep spending $15-18 million to do beach nourishment. They might but we don’t know that. As a council I think we’re going to move forward.”
The board unanimously approved the motion to establish MSDs.
Town manager Cliff Ogburn presented to the board the budget recommendations for 2021-22, which included the following tax increases for funding beach nourishment through MSDs: 12 cents for MSD 1; 3 cents for MSD 2; town-wide 3.42 cents, for a total town rate of 23 cents. The council has yet to make determinations on MSD tax rates.
Next in the meeting, the council approved new radios for the police. Updated technology must be in place by 2025, so the police department is purchasing several radios per year as funds allow. The council also approved the purchase of a skid-steer loader for the public works department.
The council then moved on to town code updates, approving updates related to subdivisions, AO zone language related to flood insurance, minimum living space and protest petitions, manufactured homes, prohibited uses (zoning) and tabled the amendment relating to temporary healthcare structures.
The next agenda items related to renewing service contracts for trash and recycling pickup, ocean rescue and auditing services. The town approved all contracts for renewal.
The meeting concluded with council member comments, which included a short update on Room in the Inn homeless ministry, a comment about considering a speed decrease along NC 12, and a reminder for all residents to be aware of cyclists and pedestrians.