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A town-county conflict could halt North Topsail’s beach renourishment project

North Topsail Beach is asking the county for help to pay for a $900 million beach renourishment project.
Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 7:00 PM EDT
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ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - A $900 million beach renourishment project could be stuck in the sand, and politics is to blame.

North Topsail Beach is trying to figure out how to fund their $16.5 million part in the project that’s been nearly 20 years in the making.

The town asked the county for its share of a 6% occupancy tax paid by renters in the town, but the county is shutting them down.

“The sources of revenue to pay these kinds of numbers were very limited,” said North Topsail Beach Town Manager David Gilbride. “Were we able to get $1.5 million back from the county, it would have a dramatic difference on the tax impact for residents.”

Renters in the state pay a 6% tax on rentals. Per state law, half of that is given to the county, and the other half is left for the town. In North Topsail Beach, that amounts to about $3 million per year, according to town officials.

Pender County gives their share to the town to develop their coastal areas, according to town officials. North Topsail Beach is asking for the same from Onslow County.

“I don’t anticipate that happening,” said Gilbride. “But it would have been nice.”

The town began charging for parking, and leaders are asking the state to allow for a 1% increase on their share of occupancy taxes to help fund the project. But they’re still coming up short on the grand total to continue to fund the project for at least the next 50 years. Which is why, Gilbride added, they need further assistance.

“We would have to do the same thing for other municipalities. It’s not fair to treat them differently,” said County Commissioner Royce Bennett. “They can apply for those tourism funds just like all the other agencies and municipalities in Onslow County do. But just giving up half of the occupancy tax is not going to happen.”

It’s turning into a political standstill, with no way to dry out the conflict without the cost washing up on the backdoors of permanent homeowners.

“If we could get the $1.5 million from the county and the occupancy tax and the paid parking, as well, we might not have to raise taxes at all,” said Gilbride.

The rest of the project’s cost is funded by state and federal dollars because of damage from previous hurricanes.

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