Figure Eight Island’s authority to build erosion structure challenged

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By Elly Colwell

Intern

A North Carolina environmental organization is challenging the Figure Eight Island Homeowners Association’s authority to build an erosion-prevention structure on the private island, citing opposition by some residents that would have to grant access to their land.

In a Sept. 29 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the North Carolina Coastal Federation asked that the permit application for the terminal groin structure be returned to the homeowners association marked “incomplete and inaccurate.”

“The applicant has not represented all of the property owners,” said Mike Giles, a coastal advocate for the federation. The federation argued that the homeowners association does not have the right to apply for this project without approval from its members.

The Figure Eight Island Homeowners Association has sent ballots to the island’s homeowners to gain a tally on how many homeowners would support the terminal groin, which would be financed by the property owners. A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report indicates the project would cost $7.4 million.

David Kellam, the homeowners association administrator, said part of the permit process is showing that the property owners can finance the project.

“The ballot is part of the application process and certainly has been planned that way,” Kellam said.

The terminal groin, a 1,500-foot structure that would extend seaward into Rich Inlet, is designed to prevent erosion and specifically protect 19 properties on the island’s north end. Figure Eight Island has more than $900 million in property value. Opponents, including the coastal federation, argue the groin could threaten the sea turtle habitats and shorebird nesting areas on the north end of the island. Opponents also argue the groin isn’t necessary since erosion on the north end has subsided, but the Figure Eight Island Homeowners Association says future erosion patterns will still make it necessary.

Some of the opposition to the groin is coming from homeowners on the island, the coastal federation argued, including property owners that would need to grant an easement on their property for the project’s construction. Without this approval, the homeowners association doesn’t have the authority to pursue the permit, the federation wrote in its letter.

“There are at least four, if not a few more, homeowners who are opposed,” Giles said. “Without their approval, they don’t have a legal right to construct the groin.”

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