|Dear Friends & Neighbors,It’s been awhile since we wrote to you and we were hoping to have better news. But, we must once again report another instance of Coastland’s intransigence and ill will towards the community. As described below, we will likely need assistance from various homeowners to allow temporary test wells to be drilled on their properties in order to move forward in developing a solution to the recurring flooding problems. We need to start now to capture winter water table levels.
Status of Albemarle Engineering Services Contract. We finalized the contract with Albemarle & Associates in early November. Albemarle worked with us in a very constructive manner to develop an agreement that came within the budgetary constraints stemming from the cost of Hurricane Matthew ocean pumping. As you may recall, the District spent $81,000 on ocean pumping; this was not a contingency that was taken into account in developing the 2016-17 budget & tax rate. We were, however, able to structure the agreement for the first phase of work to stay within our available funding without comprising the initial work (i.e., hydrology and testing) that needed to be done upfront.
In October, the Advisory Board requested that Braxton Hill obtain approval from James Johnson to drill test wells and install piezometers on the open space and undeveloped areas, subject to a “hold harmless” agreement to protect Coastland.
Coastland’s Refusal to Co-operate…Again. We believed that we had a good plan for moving forward with the initial testing … but, then, in its usual fashion, Coastland threw a monkey wrench into it. At the end of last year, Coastland sent a letter to the County at 5:30 p.m. on the Friday before New Years’ Eve (included below) that essentially said that Coastland wasn’t going to cooperate with any aspect of stormwater planning unless the County could answer why inclusion of the Coastland/Johnson undeveloped properties in the Service District made economic sense for Coastland/Johnson. If one reads the letter closer, it appears essentially to be a petulant demand that the County remove these sections (e.g., Section G) from the Service District because the District was formed without Coastland’s approval.
Eric Weatherly, the County Engineer, promptly responded with a short e-mail briefly outlining the benefits to Coastland/Johnson. In reply to Eric, Coastland sent an e-mail on January 6 simply reiterating most of the points in their December 30 letter. Al Marzetti then replied (included below) to Coastland’s January 6th e-mail trying to explain how and why it was a “no-brainer” for Coastland to cooperate as Coastland/Johnson are currently paying only ~$10,000 a year in tax and will get a stormwater mitigation solution for its undeveloped properties at a bargain price. If, for example, Section G was excluded from the District, stand-alone stormwater mitigation which would be required at the time that property is developed, would be far more expensive. (Also, it’s important to note that, if Section G were removed, we wouldn’t have a service district, because the law requires all property in the district to be contiguous.)
The Advisory Board next met on January 20, 2017 and it was once again explained to Braxton Hill that it was important that testing begin immediately due to the need to capture water table levels during the winter. We assured Braxton that (1) a suitable “hold harmless” agreement would be provided to Coastland, (2) the test wells are very small, and (3) we would provide pictures of test wells, piezometers and the equipment needed to place them so that Mr. Johnson could see what would activity would take place on his undeveloped parcels and open space – which, by the way, Coastland tells us is dedicated to the exclusive use of OSPOA.
Mr. Hill committed to get back to the Advisory Board with an answer by the following Tuesday. It is now almost 2 weeks beyond the date. Despite repeated requests and follow-up, we continue to get no response.
You may recall that, for over two years, the question of access to open space has been posed to Coastland and they steadfastly refuse to provide an answer. The current request doesn’t even relate to actual construction … it’s just some little test wells and monitoring equipment to be placed on a temporary basis. After testing is completed, Mr. Johnson’s undeveloped parcels and the open space will be returned to its original condition.
It is imperative to get this work done now or we will lose another year before we can start to deal with the flooding problem. Apparently, Mr. Johnson fails to appreciate the people who invested in his developments in Ocean Sands and Crown Point and is unconcerned with the potential for them to suffer additional loss in the future.
Our “Plan B” – Bypass Coastland. The Advisory Board anticipated that there was a high probability that Coastland would once again filibuster… because that is what they always do. So, at the January 20 meeting, we developed a back-up plan to place test wells in the right-of-way and in owners’ yards. It is likely that we will have to move forward with this plan and we will be asking some owners for permission to drill a temporary test well on their property. Attached is a map showing where Albemarle’s proposed testing locations. If your property is adjacent to one of these locations, we will follow up with you to get your approval, and if you are willing to help, it would be fantastic!!”. A “hold harmless” agreement from the County will be provided.
While this “Plan B” is not perfect from an engineering standpoint — as we will not be able to get key data from Section G and other undeveloped areas – it may be serviceable. The alternative is losing another year and, if past history is any guide, Coastland still won’t be amenable to helping the community out next year either.
We strongly encourage you to write to Coastland at info@Coastlandcorp.com and let them know that they need to cooperate with this project for the good of the community … and for their own good!
December 30, 2016
Eric Weatherly, County Engineer
County of Currituck
153 Courthouse Road, Suite 302
Currituck, NC 27929
Re: Stormwater District
James Johnson is still out of the office recovering from his surgery; however, Coastland has expressed these concerns about the stormwater district.
The County has included Sections G, R, X, Y and U in the stormwater district. All of these are undeveloped properties with the limited exception of Section R which has a single structure.
What useful purpose to James Johnson and Coastland will this serve by having these properties in the district at this time? Please explain this fully.
What benefit will these properties derive from paying the additional taxes and being in the district at this time as opposed to later when they are developed? Please explain this fully.
Does the County intend to use these properties or any property owned by James Johnson or Coastland for the benefit of the County or other properties and if so, how so?
Are any improvements contemplated now on these sections that will benefit these sections when they are developed? Why could not these improvements be deferred and additional taxes be deferred until the properties are developed? How does it benefit James Johnson and Coastland to pay additional taxes now?
If the County plans on using any of James Johnson’s or Coastland’s property, a permit or easement will have to be granted by James Johnson and/or Coastland before the County gets on the property. To the extent Coastland provides open space for stormwater facility use in the developed sections and/or as – yet undesignated space in the undeveloped sections, if such use subsequently interferes with Coastland’s future intended use of such space, in Coastland’s sole and exclusive opinion, the District shall remove, at its expense, and relocate, at its expense, such facilities.
The new Commissioners should be aware that the County has previously used James Johnson’s and/or Coastland’s property without permission or permit. We will not tolerate this to continue.
Any investigation needed to make sure that James Johnson and/or Coastland is fully protected should not be a James Johnson and/or Coastland expense.
It appears that you want my land, my tax money but get nothing out of this.
Please reply to these concerns at your earlies convenience.
cc: Dan Scanlon, County Manager
Currituck County Board of Commissioners
Ocean Sands North and Crown Point Stormwater Advisory Board
January 9, 2017
Dear Coastland, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Hill,
I am responding to email dated January 6, 2017 from info@Coastlandcorp.com. I am writing in my capacity as a member of the Ocean Sands POA Board, and not on behalf of the County. First of all, I am once again dismayed by the spitefulness of your communications.
In any event, this is to answer your question. It is pretty elementary and does not require a separate study, as it is a matter of common sense.
The amount of annual tax paid to the Stormwater District by Coastland is just over $10,000 (see attached Excel schedule). In the grand scheme of things, this is a small amount and provides huge value to Coastland. The value of G, R & U will be greatly enhanced with a functioning stormwater mitigation system, as a sizable cost will be avoided when those properties are developed. G & R (and, probably, U) will not be able to be developed without the construction of a stormwater mitigation system – and a couple of retention ponds is not going to do the trick. Economies of scale dictate that it would be far cheaper to accomplish that as part of a global system incorporating all of Ocean Sands North and Crown Point than to do it later on a piecemeal, stand-alone basis – particularly when the homeowners are paying a disproportionate share of the costs.
Most likely, a stormwater mitigation system will also enhance the value of X & Y. But even if it doesn’t, the inclusion of X & Y is critical to increasing the value of G, R & U because, for a system to be effective, access to the Sound is critical. As you are aware, Ocean Sands North & Crown Point are in a bowl and it is necessary to get the water out of that bowl to the Sound. This has been the objective of every stormwater mitigation system constructed in Corolla (e.g., Whalehead, Corolla Light) and the Ocean Sands Feasibility Study by Moffat & Nichol.
I weary of the typical Coastland response of always having to get a separate, independent study … which is a great delaying tactic and always seems to get charged to the POA. What would such a study even tell you? Coastland has Braxton Hill as its representative on the Advisory Board and the Advisory Board selected the engineering firm that Braxton was in favor of for this project. This is another reason why Coastland does not need an independent study to protect its interest. I should note that charging the cost any such study to the Ocean Sands POA will likely result in a lawsuit for breach of fiduciary duty. And I also don’t think it’s appropriate or useful for the District to bear such a cost.
I also find it disconcerting that Coastland continues to threaten trespass particularly when the OSPOA is the beneficial owner of the open space. I think there’s a fair chance that a court would find that Coastland’s bare legal title to the open space is not meaningful from the standpoint of property rights. In any event, putting test wells in place on a temporary basis would clearly not be an unreasonable and unnecessary taking of property. It is both reasonable and necessary to drill test wells to determine the most efficient system that will benefit both Coastland’s and the homeowners’ properties. How can there be a taking of property when there is no diminution in the value of the property? Also, the open space is maintained by the POA (which also pays the taxes) and is dedicated for the enjoyment of the homeowners. Makes no legal sense at all.
With respect to Section G, what economic harm could possibly accrue to Coastland from the drilling of test wells, particularly if there are assurances that the property will be restored to its original state once the test wells are no longer needed? These assurances could easily be memorialized in an easement. As noted above, it is in Coastland’s interest to have a stormwater mitigation system put in place for Section G — and, at ~$10,000 a year, that is a phenomenal bargain to Coastland! Additionally, it would help insulate Coastland from damage claims from owners on the north side of F with respect to drainage from Section G onto their properties.
Coastland has taken so much out of the community and the POA over the years, it is only right that it puts something back into it. Let’s work together to solve this problem before more property losses are incurred by the people who have supported your business.