The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce is all in when it comes to forming a new state beach nourishment fund.
In his February email to chamber members this week, chamber board of directors chairman Charlie Mattox said “the Chamber, BASE, and other area stakeholders will be pushing for the creation of a sustainable statewide funding source for beaches this legislative session.”
In 2016, the General Assembly funded several studies of beaches, including who owns property there and the economic impact.
Those studies concluded that the creation of a state-dedicated beach nourishment fund is justified and that the fund should have a $25 million minimum, the chamber email stated.
The question now is where will all the money come from.
“It’s a priority, it is key for the state and region,” said Tyler Newman, president and CEO of Business Alliance for a Sound Economy (BASE) in Wilmington. “I would think legislators would be receptive to it.”
The study listed possible options for generating funds, Mattox said in his email.
One plan would be through a single source, such as a new 0.5 percent seasonal state sales tax, which would generate $25 million, or a new state property tax on property owned by non-state residents, which will generate $26.4 million.
Also on the table is combining sources, such as a new 1 percent state meals tax, which would generate $15.1 million, and an additional land transfer fee, which would generate $10 million.
Another suggestion is a reallocation of 50 percent of existing state sales tax collections revenues from short-term lodging sales, which would result in $25.2 million.
The revenues generated by each potential funding source are only the revenues generated in the eight coastal counties, Mattox said. If a new state tax were to be implemented statewide, only that portion generated in the coastal counties would be deposited into the beach preservation fund, under the options.
“While we’re just scratching the surface of the Plan, it contains a host of information that strengthens our case for dedicated state investment in beach nourishment,” said Cape Fear Realtors governmental affairs chair Stephen Hobbs.
“Traditionally we think of roads and bridges as infrastructure. In North Carolina, beaches are infrastructure, and based on this Plan, they generate $2.5 billion in direct expenditures. When the multiplier effect is considered, this equals a whopping $6.1 billion in annual impact to the state,” said Hobbs.
In 2015, Cape Fear Realtors began the Coalition for NC Beaches in an effort to partner with others that understood that beach nourishment, or coastal storm damage reduction, is a critical economic development factor in the state.
Rep. Ted Davis Jr., R-Wilmington, told the Business Journal in January
that he expects beach funding to come up in the 2017 session, and he plans to support money for both beach nourishment and shallow inlet dredging “because I know the significant financial impact that tourism and recreation have in New Hanover County.”
“The legislature will need to come up with a permanent sustainable funding mechanism so necessary renourishment and dredging projects can be conducted,” he said last month.
The 2016 study found that the economic impact from North Carolina's beaches is, as expected, huge. It reported that there was a $1.66 billion direct impact and $4.74 billion indirect impact, with 48,718 jobs.
Mattox said the chamber is in the process of forming a committee to focus solely on this issue.