Listen when you live n a barrier island ......you know it's just a matter of time .....before you get fucked by mother ......not in law .......no sir !!!!!! nature .........you can have all the nice trapping but in one shot ...mother nature can slap you like a pimp slapping his whore.......and boom !!!!!......you lose it all ......i will never understand the people that wanna live next to such a large unstable body of water .....or have a business near it......oh !!!!!i forgot money /status/greed/image/showing off)(mostly women propel this shit ).........listen i do not trust the ocean ...its volatile ......and if you live there you really do not have much time to move .....and of course also the salt .....it eats everything away .......everything!!!!!!!!! ....i worked near the ocean for years .......and the salt cannot be stopped ......its relentless ...........if you have your car parked near the ocean ........... it will get eaten ....by the ocean ...... but fools and thei money ....easily parted ......look at champlain towers .......ocean took care of that bitch .......they did not wanna pay for the ren/fix up /and barraboom......it the whole place ......condo life is shite .........i lived in one not near the ocean but condo life is shite that's all i can tell you the board is run by unpaid ........ old kaveching ....usually new yorkers .........miserable old bastards ........... whose husbands have died....... because well.......... they are miserable old bastards and if there are old guys ....they are whining old bastards making condo rules .............been there done that......fucking nasty people on condo boards they ususally do it for pseudo power ........becasue they have had no poer in their lifes ..........
However ..........if you are like these people........ it must blow.......you must have a gram of sense that the ocean is going to get you .........its that water .....cannot be stopped ...... and you and i are the ones to blame ...not the ocean ...it does not now ....we are causing global warming .......maybe people will get an inkling ......of what is coming .....but maybe not .........fools and their money........
At the eastern edge of Beaufort County, in a private community of a few hundred people, three now-ramshackle beachfront homes could set the tone for how South Carolina deals with many properties threatened by rapid erosion, rising seas and increasing storms.
Battered by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the three remaining Harbor Island homes jut with wires and fixtures. Pastel-colored siding has peeled off. Wooden decks have folded. There’s no electricity. And there’s no running water, unless you count the sea below the raised buildings when high tide swells.
Once worth millions, the homes at the height of a controversy on a small barrier island are appraised at $500 a piece. They’re “ocean homes, not oceanfront,” one lawsuit parsed.
For years, the question posed in a legal battle isn’t whether the homes need removal. That’s inevitable. The argument is over who’s responsible for demolishing them. And a decision isn’t expected any time soon.
In varying lawsuits starting in late-2018, the Harbor Island Owners Association has placed the onus on the state of South Carolina and six Harbor Island home owners, citing rules and regulations of both the association and the state. Some of the homes’ owners turned blame back on the association, largely asserting it did nothing to address rapid erosion that led to their residences ending up in the water.
Initially, the dispute involved six homes, but three of them have since been removed by their owners.
The state has been dismissed from the legal battle. But the push and pull between the HIOA and homeowners remains, and it is convoluted. Owners from five of the homes are still in the legal tangle.
Experts say the clash over who pays for and who manages the shore in front of dilapidated beachfront homes on private property affects more than Harbor Island. It serves as the poster child as sea levels rise, erosion eats away shorelines and storms increasingly pummel precariously located houses. All while state regulators continue to struggle with how to deal with it in a state where everyone wants to live along the beach.
“I do believe what we’re seeing on Harbor will happen in other private communities along our coastline,” said Emily Cedzo, a senior program director at the Coastal Conservation League. “It’s just a matter of time.”
Residents balk at costly fix
Harbor Island has been noticeably eroding for about 20 years, but no definitive cause has ever been identified. But what is definitive is the number of residents who do not want to pay to protect a neighbor’s beachfront home.
Private communities, unlike public ones, cannot leverage state or federal funds for projects to widen the shoreline, otherwise known as renourishment, unless they agree to create public access, Cedzo said.
The cost of rebuilding Harbor Island’s shoreline was estimated in 2011 to range from $570,000 to $5 million. It’s money most residents weren’t willing to pony up.
In a 2011 survey by the community’s Environmental Stewardship Committee, about 92% of 237 respondents knew about the beach’s erosion and nearly 80% balked at renourishment as a solution. Also, about 79% said they’d be willing to pay nothing to finance a renourishment project.
By December that year, the HIOA said it would “not engage in any beach renourishment project” and that the HIOA would not “seek government permits for beach projects except for its own property, and then only after approval by the Board of Directors.”
This left the onus of beach management on the homeowners. And when tropical storms increased and the island experienced abnormally high “king” tides in 2015, the state environmental regulators granted permission to deploy hundreds of sandbags to offset erosion, according to Island Packet reporting. Some residents also placed experimental barriers called wave dissipation systems in an attempt to stymie erosion.
However, those structures were later ordered removed by a federal judge over concerns that they would impede sea turtle nesting, according to the Island Packet article. It left Harbor Island with no solution to its rapid erosion.
Rob Young, program director for the study of developed shorelines at Western Carolina University, assessed in 2016 that nearby renourishment programs on Hunting Island could have sped up erosion at Harbor Island. Or the shrinking beach could be caused by sand being trapped in the creek delta that separates Harbor Island from Hunting Island, preventing the sand from flowing to the center of Harbor. Young’s third theory looked at the dynamics of the St. Helena Sound on the island and whether they’d contributed to erosion.
“Doing nothing is not a good choice,” Young wrote in the February 2016 assessment. “Doing nothing means that your shoreline condition will be shaped largely by individual property owners responding to coastal erosion in whatever method serves them best.”
Young took a strong stance that dealing with the properties one by one, as they are being handled today, was not his recommended course of action.
When Hurricane Matthew slammed Harbor Island in October 2016, the homeowners who had been vying for renourishment saw their nightmare unfold. Multiple houses were deemed uninhabitable from the storm’s damage and other erosion issues, some were repaired or moved and others were demolished. By November 2018, six beachfront homes were at the center of a lawsuit for lack of removal and their position below the mean high water mark.
Today, three houses remain a problem.
But most of the community’s residents, despite the unsafe beach conditions posed by the abandoned houses, don’t want to subsidize a few crumbling homes that are now in the water of their private beach, said Ben Cunningham, a lawyer for the South Carolina Environmental Law Project.
Cedzo pointed to a recent and first renourishment project at Litchfield Beach — sandwiched between Pawleys Island and Huntington Beach State Park— to explain the costly implications of beachfront living. A single row of homes built along a narrow peninsula were in danger after erosion ate away the shoreline. Those homeowners had to pay “somewhere around $300,000 a piece” to pay for the renourishment project, Cedzo said.
Some turned around and sold their homes afterward, in fear the costly consequence would happen again.
On Debordieu, a private community in Georgetown County, property owners rely on a tiered payment system where those further from the shoreline pay less in annual beach management, Cedzo explained.
But for homeowners with houses on public beaches facing the ocean on places such as Folly Beach, they can leverage state and local funding to address beach erosion. There’s no worry about homeowners themselves shoveling hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain the shoreline.
Public beaches are managed by the state and local governments, which include paid staff who attend to maintenance and upkeep. That work is not expected from a private homeowners association, Cedzo said.
Even still, vying for exclusivity of a private property can usurp the complications and financial burden that comes with uncertainty of beach front living when the state and local governments aren’t involved in upkeep.
Cunningham referenced a 2011 South Carolina Supreme Court decision that essentially lays out that when someone takes “possession or own(s) a house close to the beach, (they) do so at the whim of the ocean.”
“You understand that my ownership might be impaired or cease, because the ocean might change and I might lose title on this land,” he said.
At the crux of it? Beachfront home ownership is risky.
‘No intention of actually acting’
In 2014, Patrick and Barbara Shurtleff bought a yellow clapboard house for $399,000 on Harbor Island’s beach. Four years later, when the HIOA sued the Shurtleffs over the still-standing house, water rushed under the home at high tide, the foundation below it was poking up from the sand and pieces of siding were torn away.
While the homeowners weren’t party to earlier discussions about beach erosion that’d been held since 2000, the HIOA’s filing says that the deed the Shurtleffs signed “warned them that (the house) may be in jeopardy.”
“The evident beach erosion was surely part of the reason the Defendants were able to purchase a beachfront home for less than $400,000,” a court filing said.
Now, the house’s value comes in at just $500.
In December 2018, the HIOA sued the Shurtleffs for allegedly violating covenants requiring them to remove their home. The lawsuit is pending. The HIOA also separately sued three other homeowners for the same reason.
In its lawsuit, the HIOA outlines its expectations clearly. If a structure on the island is damaged by a storm or erosion, “the owner must repair, remove, demolish, or replace the structure as soon as possible, not to exceed one year unless law or government regulations require a longer time.” Hurricane Matthew, which decimated a handful of Harbor Island houses, including the Shurtleffs, fell under this regulation.
But the Shurtleffs’ countersuit turns the blame back on the HIOA.
The counterclaim largely focuses on what the Shurtleffs say are decades of negligence by the HIOA, asserting that there was no protection or preservation of the nearly 92 acres of beach.
In the lawsuit, another resident said the association gave the “illusion they are acting, with no intention of actually acting” when discussing what little had been done to manage the whittling shoreline.
The suit says that environmental groups formed on the island for discussions about erosion were a “sham,” and that money spent to hold presentations and get estimates for the cost of fixing the beach were “false and fake efforts.”
“This doing nothing regarding the beach over the years has resulted in Harbor Island being a joke with both the State and Beaufort County, so that neither has ever helped,” the counterclaim read.
Alongside the lack of planning and management, the suit slams the HIOA for saying it had “no money” to “fix/renourish” the beach, while the homeowners argue that the association could have applied for grants that would’ve helped fund beach renourishment, which residents told the group numerous times to do. Instead, the HIOA undertook projects that were “objectively less important than fixing the beach.”
A 2016 email from Don Woelke, the HIOA manager, in response to a resident requesting they use HIOA funds for beach management, laid it out plainly. He wrote that “funds from HIOA can only be used for common property and the beach doesn’t qualify as common property.”
But other lawsuits filed by the HIOA, one since dismissed against the state and another pending against five Harbor Island residents, focus on a broader-reaching violation.
The still-pending suit, filed by the South Carolina Environmental Law Project in 2019 for the HIOA, claims five homeowners are violating the state’s Public Waters Nuisance Abatement Act. It’s a piece of state legislation from 2007 that allows for the removal of “structures” on South Carolina’s public waters if they are a nuisance.
Additionally, the suit claims the “beached houses” violate the Public Trust Doctrine, which “holds presumptive title to land below the high water mark” and gives the state control of that land to ensure it’s used to benefit the public. The then five homes were below that mark, three still remain a nuisance to public use, according to the doctrine.
However, an even broader question than who is responsible for removing the nuisance homes on Harbor Island is what needs to be done to ensure these precarious homes aren’t built in the first place.
And, further, whose job is that?
‘How do we pull back?’
Nearly three decades ago, a Harbor Island resident said they bought their home because the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control noted the barrier island was growing.
Shortly after, three homes on the island were given special permits from the state, according to records obtained by The State and Island Packet media companies. That means, based on DHEC’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management’s beachfront jurisdictional lines, those homes were built seaward of the baseline. None of the three homes are listed as properties with special permits, based on The State and Island Packet’s records.
There are two lines of beachfront jurisdiction – the baseline and the setback line, with the baseline as the more seaward of the two, according to DHEC. Between the two, someone looking to build or repair must follow specific rules. For those seeking to build seaward of the baseline, essentially right at an active beach, it requires getting a special permit.
In 2011, The State reported about 60 special permits, in total, had been issued in South Carolina. They year, Cedzo estimated that number was now closer to about 70. While it’s not a considerably large number, Cedzo says the developments are highly vulnerable and leave experts and the state with more questions to answer.
“How do we pull back? I mean, how can you pull back at this point?” she said. “We’ve continued to kick the can down the road in South Carolina, so now we have houses abandoned on a beach that no one wants to claim responsibility for.”
It’s part of what Cedzo and a handful of local and state experts are trying to assess in their beach preservation stakeholder work group. They’re hoping to form recommendations around everything from definitions of preservation both for structures and the beach to how much state funding needs to be allocated for renourishment. Alongside that will be recommendations for new legislation to create policies to address beachfront management issues, Cedzo added.
South Carolina’s beach management law, approved in 1988, for decades focused on moving new development farther back from the shore because of hazards and public costs of building near the ocean. When storms hit, substantially damaging oceanfront buildings, the state was supposed to require new construction to happen farther back.
But over time, legislators and state regulators gave exemptions to property owners who wanted to rebuild after storm damage. The gradual movement of development back from the beach, called the “retreat policy,’‘ never was fully realized.
In 2018, the Legislature abandoned the retreat policy because the law had produced many complaints from oceanfront property owners. But in abandoning the retreat policy, the Legislature didn’t make it clear how to define the new state policy, which has created confusion.
And still, as the state’s beaches ebb and flow, storms increase and the conversation between letting Mother Nature take her course and saving estates continues, South Carolina’s rules and regulations aren’t finite.
For Cunningham, the issue begins when people are allowed to build homes so close to the water. The beach erodes in front of it. The home is battered by storms. Then, the house begins to deteriorate and “people want to do whatever they can to protect” it. Oftentimes, it’s not in favor of nature.
“Then you start talking about engineering activities or proposals that essentially degrade the beach more or remove the beach,” he said.
While seawalls are illegal, groins running up and down the shore affecting sand down drift are not. And groins can leave one side of the beach quickly eroding. In turn, animals and the sand are negatively affected when humans leave their mark trying to save their property.
“It’s just an endless cycle once you get on the train,” he said.
The kind of cycle that’s left beachfront homeowners and one HOA on a small barrier island embattled for decades.