101217 Beaches: New lines expand state jurisdiction along coast
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State jurisdiction lines will move from the beach to the rear of this Pawleys Island house, where the dune was flattened by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Beaches: New lines expand state jurisdiction along coast

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

State lawmakers are seeking a delay in implementing changes that will place over 120 homes on Pawleys Island within the jurisdiction of state coastal regulations. Those include homes that aren’t on the beachfront.

“We were the most impacted community on the coast,” Mayor Bill Otis said.

State Sen. Stephen Goldfinch and state Rep. Lee Hewitt asked the leaders of the Senate and House to require the Department of Health and Environmental Control to allow more time for public comment. The new jurisdictional lines were released on Oct. 6. Property owners have until Nov. 6 to comment. The lines will take effect by Dec. 31.

“It’s all about notice,” Hewitt said. Property owners “ought to be given notice that this can affect some of their rights.”

At issue are two lines: the “baseline” that marks the crest of the primary dune and the “setback line” that estimates the extent of erosion over 40 years. The state Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, a division of DHEC, has jurisdiction over the area between the lines and seaward of the baseline.

“The setback area is not a no-build zone,” said Will Salters, program manager for planning in the agency’s Charleston office. He and Barbara Neale, a senior program analyst, spoke to Pawleys Island Town Council and property owners about the changes this week. “The lines obviously shifted, but what does that mean,” Salters said.

New homes up to 5,000 square feet are allowed. Homes that are damaged can rebuild to their original size and footprint. Those include homes that are seaward of the baseline. “You can build anywhere seaward of the baseline with a special permit as long as your house is as landward as possible,” Salters said.

Glenn Kornahrens will see the state jurisdiction move from the front of his oceanfront house to the other side of Springs Avenue. “I would have to rebuild beyond the baseline if these lines are established,” he said, adding that the idea of a special permit “makes me concerned.”

The permits have been required since 1990, Neale said. They are typically used for docks or bulkheads. “There aren’t any special hoops,” she said and Coastal Resources has never denied a permit for a home.

While the lines have been adjusted three times in the past, under state law this is the last time that the baseline will move seaward. That underscores the state’s policy of “retreat from the shoreline” adopted by the legislature.

In calculating the baseline, Coastal Resources used aerial survey data from 2014 that it verified on the ground from November 2016 through January 2017. The agency considers an existing dune to be at least 3 feet high and 500 feet long. There was none on the narrow south end of Pawleys Island below Hazard Street, so it used Springs Avenue. The baseline is on the east side. The setback, based on the estimated erosion rate over 40 years, varies in width. In the Birds Nest section, it includes all the second-row lots.

The proposed jurisdictional lines also shifted west on other parts of the island. They were in front of all but one house and two of the buildings at Pawleys Pier Village. Now dozens of houses fall at least partially within the lines. In a couple of places on the north end of the island, the proposed lines actually moved seaward of the current lines.

At Litchfield Beach, the lines move from the beachfront west to Norris Drive in the southern portion of Inlet Point, bringing 36 houses within the state jurisdiction. No buildings at Litchfield by the Sea or North Litchfield fall within the lines. At Garden City, 46 houses will fall within the new lines.

Some properties on the south end of Pawleys Island and Garden City are within the current jurisdictional lines. Nevertheless, the proposed lines “were shocking as far as I was concerned,” Otis said. He served as vice chairman of a state committee that recommended revisions to the beachfront regulations in 2013. Those were approved by the DHEC board and the legislature. “Nobody thought there would be three hurricanes in a row,” he said.

The town was expecting the announcement of the new jurisdictional lines. Emails sent by the town to property owners drew about 20 people to this week’s council meeting and the opportunity for an explanation from Coastal Resources staff. Hewitt and Goldfinch were also there to present Otis with a resolution marking the end of his 20 years as mayor. He isn’t running in next month’s election.

“You can tell just by this small room just how much it impacts people,” Hewitt said. He is the owner of Garden City Realty, but only got notice that the proposed lines were up for public comment through his legislative email. Neither his colleagues in the industry nor the S.C. Association of Realtors was aware of the changes, he said.

Coastal Resources will hold a hearing on the lines Oct. 25 in Myrtle Beach, but that leaves only seven working days before the comment period deadline, Hewitt said. And people who comment need to be able to provide data that supports a change in the lines. “You can’t just say you don’t like it,” he said.

There are other questions, such as the time in which property owners can file appeals once the lines are adopted. It is also unclear whether a successful appeal by one property owner would affect just that lot or others in the area. Only property owners can appeal, but Otis said the town will do everything it can to help owners file and challenge the lines in court, if necessary.

The proposed jurisdictional lines can be viewed online. Comments can also be submitted online.

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