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Developers, residents push for bill to deannex land from Sunset Beach

Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 6:14 PM EDT
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SUNSET BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - Developers are butting heads with the town of Sunset Beach, complaining that leaders keep changing the rules when it comes to developing. Now, a representative is stepping in from Raleigh.

Whether it’s how big the lots are or how much space should be between each building, developers and the Town of Sunset Beach can’t seem to get on the same page.

William Boe moved into his townhome at Eastwood Bluff in 2017 and he had high expectations.

“The plan was to build 20 additional townhouses,” said Boe. “As I looked outside my window, I could see the foundations for it: two of those had already been laid.”

He says those extra neighbors would have offered a real sense of community, but the moving trucks never came. That’s because Riptide Builders is one of several developers that say the town of Sunset Beach is running them in circles.

“Sunset Beach is an attractive place to live, drawing families from near and far to relocate to our community,” said Riptide Builders in a statement. “As local developers committed to the town’s success, our desire is to help Sunset Beach address this growth in thoughtful ways that will keep the spirit and quality of life of this community alive. Yet, the Town’s recent actions deter partnership, compromise, and cooperation.”

In 2020, Riptide Builders bought some of the remaining undeveloped land in Sea Trail, including Eastwood Bluff. Shortly after, Sunset Beach announced it would regulate development as part of its de-densification effort. Since then, Riptide Builders say it’s had problems and concerns about amendments to development requirements. That’s why in January, developers met with Rep. Frank Iler to discuss the issues.

“The town started changing the lot sizes, the setbacks on townhomes that had been built,” said Iler. “The townhomes are connected, so obviously you have zero setbacks between. Each building can have a setback, but not each townhome. Then, they changed the square feet underneath the townhomes. It just went on and on.”

That’s why Iler proposed House Bill 385 to the General Assembly. If passed, the bill would deannex the property from Sunset Beach so developers would instead work with Brunswick County regulations and officials. Right now, the bill only includes one property but Iler says he’s working with other developers that have run into the same problem.

“Seven or eight developers, once they had their preliminary plats approved, the Town of Sunset Beach, which has had a history of being anti-development, made it harder for these folks to know what to do,” said Iler.

Some of the properties looking to be free of Sunset Beach are within town limits, meaning the town would miss out on tax revenue as a result of the property no longer legally being within the town. Others are outside limits, meaning the only money the town would lose from those properties is fees from things like building permits.

The Town of Sunset Beach has since expressed its opposition to the bill, releasing the following statement through attorney Grady Richardson:

“The Mayor and Town Council remain unanimously opposed to House Bill 385. While we were pleased that the bill did not receive a favorable vote in the House Local Government Committee this week, we understand that the bill is still alive and could come back up again later in the session. However, as an attorney for the developer acknowledged in response to a legislator’s question during this week’s committee meeting, none of the developers pushing this legislation have had their vested rights violated in any way. To date, the town has approved all properly submitted applications as allowed under our development code, and we remain committed to approving all future properly submitted applications as allowed under our development code. We hope that the developers will drop their efforts to push this bill, and instead take us up on our standing offer to meet with them to resolve any outstanding issues.”

Developers and residents seem to think the chance of compromise has passed and leaving town limits is the only way to have the community of their dreams.

“Rather than looking out the window and seeing bare land and fragments of cement, what we envision is a full-time community down here that would be an enjoyable place to live with lots of really good people,” said Boe.

Iler introduced the bill last week and it didn’t get a favorable response in the Local Government Committee, but Iler says he’s working on making improvements and expects action before the end of the legislative session.

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