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  • Writer's pictureKim McGahey

Coastal Common Sense

There's an undeveloped parcel of land at the very southern tip of Topsail Island. We affectionately refer to it as the Hundred Acre Wood, but the surveyor tells us it's actually more like a 150 acres of undisturbed, pristine coastline dunes, and one wiley coyote, that has been used and admired for years by locals and visitors as the last of Pender County's, and maybe North Carolina's, natural sea coast habitat.

The Hundred Acre Wood is now slated for development which has all the locals and visitors up in arms and mounting a grassroots effort to halt any building on this last vestige of the pure Carolina coastline.

Protest yard signs claiming "Conserve The Point" along Anderson Blvd. and numerous citizen comments at Topsail Beach town council meetings call for no construction on the Hundred Acre Wood. A town hall meeting was held by the owners to inform and reassure the public and several hundred people showed up to voice their disapproval. It's a topic of concern at all local town planning meetings and all local happy hours. But the aversion to the current development plan on this private land is misplaced.

The protesters would have a stronger case if the Hundred Acre Wood was publicly owned. They could then petition the government to stop any development on the land. Even a motion for Imminent Domain could then be more easily thwarted if the land were owned by an entity seeking development for the public good or the general welfare.

For example, public municipalities can develop land under the Imminent Domain law for purposes of creating parks, recreation sites, transportation access arteries, various infrastructure projects, wildlife refuges, etc.

The Town of Topsail Beach, Pender County or the State of North Carolina could "take" the land to build a bridge to Hampstead, a sewer plant for the town or a commercial pier - all of which would likely be allowed under that Imminent Domain law; however difficult those projects would be to accomplish.

As it stands now, the land is privately owned by individuals who desire, and have made formal application to the Town of Topsail Beach, to develop the parcel with 8 homes and docks into Topsail Sound. This low impact, minimal development is infinitely preferable to other high density, multi-family construction that an owner of the land could request. Eight homes is a lot less intrusive than 10 multi-story buildings with 150 condo units, for example.

Besides, anybody else wanting to control development there should have bought the land. These owners paid millions of dollars for the land and deserve to have their day in court.

Preventing the Town Council from approving a sewer treatment plant for the Town is a much better target for local and second homeowner protesters wishing to curtail future high density development in Topsail Beach. Tall condo buildings like in Surf City and North Topsail Beach can only be built if a sewer treatment plant system is approved by our Town Council. No such high density, multi-family buildings can be built as long as we remain on septic systems. So let's protest the proposed sewer plant system and not the Hundred Acre Wood.

As confirmed by the Town of Topsail Beach planning and council officials, the development process for the Hundred Acre Wood will be arduous at best. There will be numerous planning and zoning approvals required at many levels of government from the town, the county, the state and the federal. There will be wildlife habitat issues, environmental concerns, ocean objections, water and land access problems, infrastructure obstacles and many more hurdles that we don't yet know about.

So let the development process run its course, but do protest peacefully and patriotically loud and often to your Town Council and Planning Boards to make the planning and zoning process as difficult as possible within the law. Maybe then the land owners will give up and sell the Hundred Acre Wood back to Winnie the Pooh and friends.


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