NC Groups Move to Protect Sunset Beach and Bird Island

Released by Kathleen Sullivan,

On behalf of the Sunset Beach Taxpayers Association and North Carolina Coastal Federation, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a request for a hearing with the NC Division of Coastal Management as the required first step in challenging the state permit for a private developer to bulldoze 15 acres of protective dunes along the Sunset Beach NC, oceanfront to allow for building 21 houses.  The request was filed Friday, July 8, 2016.

“This permit threatens what makes Sunset Beach unique,” said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center. “It would not only allow the destruction of dunes that buffer the community from storms and hurricanes, it also jeopardizes the integrity of Bird Island—which draws thousands of people a year to the island’s beaches.”

The developer failed to provide proof of ownership of the oceanfront land it seeks to develop as required for a permit under state law, according to the documents filed. The town of Sunset Beach is also pursuing claims to the oceanfront land in a separate state court filing.

“More than a decade ago, the Federation joined with the people of Sunset Beach and the state to protect the Bird Island Reserve,” said Mike Giles, North Carolina Coastal Federation’s Coastal Advocate in Wrightsville Beach.  “The environmental effect of this permit not only threatens to undermine that effort, the developer has not even demonstrated that it owns the property.”

Another violation outlined in the today’s filings is that the state’s permit illegally allows the developer to bulldoze 15 acres of protective dunes at Sunset Beach. Dunes serve as critical habitat for wildlife and vital protection to beach communities like Sunset Beach faced with the threats of hurricanes and storms. The development would also destroy an area enjoyed by residents and visitors who fish, bird watch and enjoy the sunsets at the same location.

“Over the years, science has demonstrated the importance of sand dunes and marshes in protecting property from flooding due tidal water surges from strong storms and hurricanes,” said Richard Hilderman, Ph.D, vice president of the Sunset Beach Taxpayers Association.  “Marshes are also important because most of the seafood we eat spend at least part of their life cycle in the marshes.  This development would significantly degrade the dunes and marshes we depend on.”

Public sewer utilities cannot be extended due to the hazardous location where the permit allows the developer to build. The developer’s current plan includes septic systems, which are prohibited under the Sunset Beach land use plan due to the accompanying groundwater pollution and threat of flooding.

The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC’s team of more than 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. To find out more, visit

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About Kay Whatley 2284 Articles
Kay Whatley serves as Editor and Reporter with The Grey Area News. Kay is a published author with over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. Kay Whatley is wife to Frank Whatley, founder of The Grey Area™ newspaper and The Grey Area News online news website.