Ocean Property Rights- Topsail Island

Dec 7th, 2005, 10:08 AM
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Join Date: Nov 2003
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Ocean Property Rights- Topsail Island

Today's WALL STREET JOURNAL headlines a story about the beach resort of Topsail Island, North Carolina. That's where I have vacationed for nearly forty years. Over forty years ago, a small group of people bought oceanfront property at the southern end of the island. It amounted to a couple of dozen acres at the time. Since then, due to natural currents, the island has moved southwards and 125 acres have been added to the south end of the island. Now the owners of the original south end of the island want to develop the property. As one might guess, this has the small resort/retirement in an uproar, including owners of a row of homes at the southern end which will no longer be classified as waterfront (essentially, they aren't now anyway, but that's another story). Anybody have an idea of how the law works in such a case? Who owns the property that was part of an ocean channel four decades ago? Is this land now solely an extension of whomever owned the property which was waterfront forty years ago? Is this a case of North Carolina law alone? As for environmental law, this new property has become a sanctuary for sea turtles, turtle hatcheries, and migratory birds and their nests. What would be the environmental law regarding regarding this land?
Shane is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 10:16 AM
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Federal Law is that the state owns the land up to the mean high tide line.

As far as wildlife, depending upon the type of wildlife, if it is any type of endangered species, they'll have a hard time developing this land.

This is my opinion for what it is worth. The original land owners will lose this fight in the court of popular opinion. If has already made it to the front page of the Wall Street Journal, it isn't a good sign for the landowners. The landowners want to keep this fight private and behind closed doors.

On the flip side, if the land had eroded by 125 acres, the landowners would be SOL and lose the land they are on.

Ocean Isle Beach is dealing with this same issue. The homeowners have lost their property to the ocean and have no recourse.
Dec 7th, 2005, 10:19 AM
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Geez, I don't make sense. Let me try again.

Since this story has already gone national, not only will they lose in the court of popular opinion but in the justice system as well.

Also keep in mind, one big hurricane will make this whole issue moot.
Dec 7th, 2005, 10:21 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Haven't been to OIB for a long time but a number of years ago my inlaws invited the entire family to the beach to celebrate their 50th anniversary. They went down in the winter and found a neat house--it had 7 bed rooms, each with a separate entrance--just what was needed. It was on the 4throw but all the kids were high school age so getting to the beach wasn't a problem. A nor'easter hit that winter. When we arrived in June, it was a front row house!!
Gretchen is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 10:34 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I remember the term "accretion" from business law in college, and it seems to me the new land becomes yours.

Now, whether or not it's reasonable to build houses on "shifting sand" is another question. If I owned that property, i would hope that local gov/conservation orgs would give me a reasonable price for it and make it a park. If you sold it for less than you could develop it for, you could take the difference as a tax write off (conservation easement, or something like that).
Litespeed_Chick is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 02:18 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Yes, shifting sand indeed. What mother nature giveth she often taketh away. All along the coast are these monsters built on fill sand, only to have a hurricane come and decide that old inlet was really pretty neat and I think I'll just put it right back.
Gretchen is offline  

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