On Monday, July 15, the New Hanover County Board of
Commissioners will decide if the assessment of the Mason Inlet Waterbird
Habitat Management Plan will be funded fully by Wrightsville Beach north end
property owners up from a 50/50 split cost.
Since 2003, the $25,000 cost was split 50/50 between the
county and property owners for the Audubon North Carolina contract.
During a July 11 agenda briefing, Commissioner Thomas Wolfe
asked how many property owners would be included.
“All of this will go to northern Wrightsville Beach,” said
Finance Director Lisa Wurtzbacher. “It’s 59 parcels, so it’s about $200 per
The decision would affect 441 property owners with an
estimated cost of less than $30 per owner.
About 81 percent of the assessment would go to Shell Island Resort condo owners, County Engineer Jim Iannucci said.
County Manager Chris Coudriet pointed out that the item is
being brought back to the board for clarity after being discussed by the
previous board in December 2012.
But county staff is proposing the cost also be fully
assessed to property owners in future years.
In his opinion, Coudriet said the cost should be fully assessed
to the benefitted areas and not from the county’s general fund.
When the 2012 contract, the one currently being discussed,
came before the board, staff suggested 100 percent be assessed to the property
owners, because the plan is required in the 30-year permit.
The board’s decision will impact the numbers for the overall
Masons Inlet assessment to property owners, with the Aug. 5 public hearing
about maintenance costs still taking place regardless of the decision made.
Chairman Woody White questioned the reasoning behind
changing the funding method.
“If everyone is in agreement with it, why change it?” he
Coudriet said the project’s intent was that it would be
advanced from the Room Occupancy Tax and then from assessments to property
owners who directly benefit from the change.
“Along the way things happened and 50 percent of the bird
monitoring contract became a general fund expenditure,” he said. “My position
is that there should be a commitment to being true to how the project was
imagined and committed to, but that certainly is the board’s choice as to
whether or not the general fund has some responsibility with the maintenance of
Iannucci said the numbers are based on an assessment
formula, and that the county and Masons Inlet Preservation Group members are
working with the permitting agencies to reduce or eliminate some of the fees.
“There’s an education component, and there’s also a counting
of the birds,” he said. “We’re trying to reduce some of those things as we do
Some of those meetings are taking place in late July.