§ 156.124  STRUCTURES WITHIN THE PRIMARY AND FRONTAL DUNES.
   (A)   Purpose.  It is the purpose of this section to develop regulatory standards which will assist with the preservation of a continuous dune system within the town, acknowledging the protective and aesthetic values that this feature provides. Regulations are hereby established to limit structures within the dune system that are known to weaken its structural integrity. Further, construction standards are established for dune walkover structures to minimize their impact on the dune, recognizing that these structures provide a safe and responsible mechanism to access the ocean beach.
   (B)   Definitions.
      DUNE SYSTEM, FRONTAL DUNE. The first mound of sand located landward of the beach having sufficient vegetation, height, continuity, and configuration to offer protective value.
      DUNE SYSTEM, PRIMARY DUNE.  The first mounds of sand located landward of the beach having an elevation equal to the mean flood level for the area plus 6 feet. The primary dune extends landward to the lowest elevation in the depression behind the same mound of sand.
      DUNE WALKOVER STRUCTURE. A raised walkway constructed for the purpose of providing access to the beach from points landward of the dune system.
      ESCARPMENT.  The vertical drop or steep slope in the beach profile separating 2 comparatively level or more gentle sloping surfaces caused from high tide or storm tide erosion.
      FIRST LINE OF STABLE NATURAL VEGETATION.  This line represents the boundary between the normal dry sand beach, which is subject to constant flux due to waves, tides, storms and wind, and the more stable upland areas. The vegetation line is generally located at or immediately oceanward of the seaward toe of the frontal dune or erosion escarpment. The Division of Coastal Management or Local Permit Officer shall determine the location of the stable and natural vegetation line, based on visual observations of plant composition and density. If the vegetation has been planted, it may be considered stable when the majority of the plant stems are from continuous rhizomes, rather than planted individual rooted sets. The vegetation may be considered natural when the majority of the plants are mature and additional species native to the region have been recruited, providing stem and rhizome densities that are similar to adjacent areas that are naturally occurring. In areas where there is no stable natural vegetation present, this line may be established by interpolation between the nearest adjacent stable natural vegetation by on-ground observations or by aerial photographic interpretation.
      POST-AND-RAIL STRUCTURE. A single top rail mounted on imbedded posts. To minimize the impact of the structure, a POST-AND-RAIL STRUCTURE shall not include additional structural or decorative elements such as cross-bracing, other horizontal railing, or balusters. For structural support, posts must be embedded at least 4 feet in the ground. The rails shall have a span no less than 6 feet and no greater than 10 feet.
      POST-AND-ROPE STRUCTURE. A structure consisting of a single strand of rope strung between imbedded posts typically serving to guide people to a certain location traversing a dune. The span between posts shall be no less than 6 feet and no greater than 10 feet.
      STATIC VEGETATION LINE. In areas within boundaries of a large-scale beach fill project, the first line of stable natural vegetation that existed prior to the onset of project construction shall be defined as the STATIC VEGETATION LINE. The "onset of project construction" shall be defined as the date sediment placement begins. A STATIC VEGETATION LINE shall be established in coordination with the N.C. Division of Coastal Management using on-ground observation and surveys of existing conditions for all areas of the oceanfront that undergo a large-scale beach fill project. Once a static vegetation line is established, this line shall be used as the reference point for measuring oceanfront setbacks in all locations where it is landward of the first line of stable natural vegetation. In all locations where the first line of stable natural vegetation is landward of the static vegetation line, the first line of stable natural vegetation shall be used as the reference point for measuring oceanfront setbacks.
      TOE OF SLOPE. That point between the beach and the dune system where the uniform line of slope from the ocean toward the barrier dune begins an abrupt change upward and becomes the slope of the barrier dune.
   (C)   Regulatory standards.
      (1)   Dune walkover structures. Dune walkover structures shall be constructed to entail negligible alteration of the dune. The following construction standards shall apply:
         (a)   Dune walkover structures for residential use shall be no wider than 4 feet and shall be constructed on raised posts or pilings embedded no less than 4 feet and no greater than 5 feet below grade. Walkover structures for commercial or public use may be constructed up to 6 feet in width and shall utilize piling embedment criteria consistent with the North Carolina Building Code.
         (b)   The underside of the dune walkover structure across the frontal or primary dune shall be a minimum of 18 inches and a maximum of 30 inches above grade.
         (c)   Dune walkover structures shall be located such that the first step down to the beach is placed no farther seaward than the beginning of the downward slope of the dune.
         (d)   Dune walkover structures shall be constructed so that the staircase turns parallel to the dune if there is more than a 12-foot-vertical rise in the staircase required to provide access to the surface of the beach. The requirement to turn the stairs shall not apply in instances where it would preclude the placement of the stairs entirely within the subject property.
         (e)   Within the beach nourishment project area, dune walkover structures must be constructed to meet the following standards:
            1.   A dune walkover structure on the western side of the dune may consist of a hardened structure (ramp/stairway), beach access matting, or any material consistent with the standards of this chapter.
            2.   A dune walkover extending over the top of a dune or on the eastern side of a dune may include the installation of beach access matting.
            3.   A dune walkover may include the installation of a single post-and-rail structure over the top and on the eastern side of the dune. A second post-and-rail structure will be permitted at a common dune walkover owned and maintained by a neighborhood association or similar entity. The post-and-rail structure(s) may extend down the eastern side of the dune from the top of the dune to the toe of the dune.
            4.   A dune walkover may include the installation of post-and-rope structures over the top and on the eastern side of a dune. The post-and-rope structures may extend down the eastern side of the dune from the top of the dune to the toe of the dune.
            5.   If erosion, migration of the dune, or other forces cause any portion of a post-and rail or post-and-rope structure to extend eastward of the toe of the dune or expose the supporting posts, that section of the structure must be removed by the owner.
            6.   Any portion of a post-and-rail or post-and-rope structure within the area of a beach renourishment or dune maintenance project must be removed by the owner upon notice from the town prior to initiation of the project.
         (f)   Where a lawful dune walkover structure exists on July 5, 2017 within the beach nourishment project area that could not be built under the terms of division (e) above, the structure may be continued so long as it remains lawful, subject to the following provisions.
            1.   The non-conforming dune walkover structure may not be enlarged or altered in a way which increases its non-conformity, but any structure or portion thereof may be altered to decrease its non-conformity.
            2.   Should the non-conforming portion of a dune walkover structure be destroyed by any means to an extent of more than 50% of its replacement cost at the time of destruction, it shall not be reconstructed, except in conformity with the provisions of this chapter.
            3.   If located at an elevation higher than the top of the dune, an extension of the non-conforming dune walkover structure, not exceeding 5 feet in length, may be added to lower the walkover structure to the elevation at the top of the dune.
      (2)   Setbacks established for dune protection.
         (a)   Development shall be regulated in accordance with the setback criteria established by the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) as defined in 15A NCAC 07H .0306.
         (b)   Accessory structures that are exempt from the CAMA setback criteria shall not be located within 30 feet of the first line of stable natural vegetation or static vegetation line. This shall include decks, gazebos, pools and any other structure which meets the exception criteria establish by the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) in 15A NCAC 07H.0309. This setback shall not apply to dune walkover structures as defined in this section. Additionally, one dune deck per lot may be allowed no closer than 15 feet to the first line of stable natural vegetation or static vegetation line provided that the dune deck does not exceed 8 feet measured in any dimension, including the area that is combined with or adjacent to any dune walkover structure that may be present, and also provided that the dune deck is no higher than 30 inches above grade. In cases where the first line of stable natural vegetation is not evident on the subject property, this line shall be determined by interpolating a straight line between nearest identifiable first line of stable natural vegetation on the adjacent properties directly to the north and south of the subject property (this clause does not apply to properties subject to the static vegetation line).
         (c)   Existing structures which do not meet the setback criteria established by this section shall be regulated in accordance with the standards applicable to nonconforming structures established in § 156.073. For the purposes of determining replacement cost, the value of each accessory structure shall be considered individually and shall not be combined with the value of any other structure.
         (d)   Pools within the OCEAN HAZARD SETBACK (as defined by 15A NCAC 07H.0306) shall be constructed such that the top of the pool structure is flush with the adjacent grade and shall not be supported on a piling foundation. In addition, pools within the OCEAN ERODIBLE AREA (as defined by CAMA in 15A NCAC 07H.0304) and where the pre-disturbance grade elevation is below the regulatory flood protection elevation shall be constructed such that the top of the pool structure is flush with the adjacent grade and shall not be supported on a piling foundation.
      (3)   Nothing in this section shall preclude the removal of any structure which violates § 156.063, Encroachment of Structures on the Ocean Beach.
(Ord. 13-04, passed 7-17-2013; Am. Ord. 17-05, passed 7-5-2017; Am. Ord. 17-06, passed 7-5-2017; Am. Ord. 19-10, passed 2-5-2020; Am. Ord. 21-01, passed 6-2-2021; Am. Ord. 21-03, passed 6-2-2021)