North Carolina’s Sunset Beach saved from development

Fifteen acres of protective dunes will be spared from bulldozing after the town of Sunset Beach, North Carolina and the developer who wanted to build houses there agreed to sell the property, whose ownership is in dispute, to the state of North Carolina so it can be added to the Bird Island Reserve.

In 2015, SELC began the process of challenging the permit for the construction of 21 houses along the stretch of undisturbed oceanfront. SELC worked on behalf of the Sunset Beach Taxpayers Association and North Carolina Coastal Federation.

As part of its comments, SELC argued that the town was the rightful owner of the property, not the developer. The town ultimately claimed ownership of the property and began the litigation that resulted in the recent settlement.

“This development would have exposed Sunset Beach to greater risk by eliminating the dunes and marshes that buffer the community from hurricanes,” said Senior Attorney Geoff Gisler. “It would have eliminated critical habitat for wildlife and ruined an area used by residents and visitors for fishing, birdwatching and enjoying the spectacular sunsets that give the beach its name.”

Gisler also argued the development would have threatened the integrity of the adjacent Bird Island Reserve. SELC was instrumental decades ago in protecting Bird Island from development and securing its designation as a coastal reserve. The sale of this land to the state for preservation will complete the reserve and ensure it will be protected forever.

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