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Legal Issues
Jul 1, 2016

The Latest Line In The Sand

Sponsored Content provided by Geoffrey Losee - Partner, Rountree Losee LLP

The Old North State regulates how close you can build to the ocean. The structure has to be “set back” from a certain “measurement line.” The setback distance depends on such factors as the size of the structure and the erosion rate. The larger the structure and the higher the erosion rate, the more the development has to be set back.
Over time, the types of “measurement lines” have evolved.
First Line of Stable Natural Vegetation (FLSNV)
The oldest measurement line is the “First Line of Stable Natural Vegetation” (FLSNV) along the ocean front. Problems arose after huge storms washed away the FLSNV.
The “Static” Vegetation Line (SVL)
Eventually, the rules were changed so that if a beach community has benefitted from a large scale beach renourishment project, the setback could be measured from a “static vegetation line” (SVL). Problem: You are stuck with the SVL even if the vegetation line afterward grows and extends well oceanward beyond the SVL.
The “SVL Exception” – Back to the FLSNV?
Later, the rules were changed to allow reference to the vegetation line, but only if the community demonstrated a long-term, capable commitment to beach renourishment. Even then, the exception applied only to structures no larger than 2,500 square feet.
The New “Development Line
Starting this year, a new tool for locating development on the ocean front is available – the “Development Line.” A beach community that has had a large-scale beach renourishment project can now adopt a line that represents where structures can be built up to, as long as the FLSNV setback is met. The line is placed generally in reference to adjacent structures.
The primary advantage for development line beach communities is that they no longer have to demonstrate a long-term beach nourishment plan. For oceanfront owners, it’s not being limited to a 2,500-square-foot maximum size.
Beach communities all up and down our coast are now looking into whether they should adopt a development line. Before you buy a beach-front property, we recommend you check the status of this issue as part of your due diligence. If you are selling, make sure you don’t make any representations or warranties unintentionally or inadvertently. The rules on beachfront development are much like that sandcastle your kids (or grandkids) are building … always moving and subject to change!
Geoff Losee can be reached by visiting, by email at [email protected] or by calling (910) 763-3404. Rountree Losee LLP has provided a full range of legal services to individuals, families and businesses in North Carolina for over 110 years. As well-recognized leaders in each of the areas in which they practice, the attorneys of Rountree Losee provide clients a wealth of knowledge and experience. In their commitment to provide the highest quality legal service, they handle a wide range of legal issues with creativity, sensitivity and foresight. 

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