A vote by North Topsail Beach aldermen to allow swimming pool construction on the oceanfront setback reverses a 2008 action to prohibit them within town limits.

During a continued public hearing regarding a proposed text amendment to a unified development ordinance involving swimming pool construction, one resident expressed concern about any lax in shoreline protection ordinances.

“I caution you that any relaxation of shoreline protection ordinances will be perceived to be another reckless sellout to developers and fuel our critics that shoreline development is irresponsible,” Dan Tuman, of River Road, said.

In Sept. 2008, the town’s Board of Aldermen approved an amendment to the UDO that excluded pools from the oceanfront setback, according to previous Daily News reports. Recently, some homeowners and realtors have expressed opposition to the amendment and proposed another amendment allowing the construction within CAMA guidelines.

According to CAMA guidelines, the CAMA setback allows for pools between the oceanfront setback requirements and the landward toe of the dune. During the regular meeting, North Topsail Beach Planning Director Deborah Hill provided three options in regard to the swimming pool amendment:

• Continue with the 2008 amendment which doesn’t allow for pools on the oceanfront setback

• Follow CAMA guidelines in allowing swimming pools with state regulations

• Follow the lead of Duck in the Outer Banks in allowing pools at a 30-foot setback

A Jacksonville lawyer representing several property owners argued that since state regulations are already in place, town regulations aren’t needed.

“This is a burden to the property owner,” Keith Fountain said, adding that he didn’t think there was any justification for the town’s amendment.

Andrew McKay, who represented ANA Builders, said he agreed with Fountain.

“Perhaps this is really CAMA’s issue and not the town’s issue,” he said. “Both scenarios two and three recognize that it’s CAMA’s role to regulate the field in this particular issue and … would recognize environmental impact as well as give consideration to the needs of the property owner as it pertains to economics.”

McKay offered a fourth scenario that swimming pools be permitted 20 feet from the landward toe of the dune, which he said would put pool construction back farther than what is mandated by the state.

Fountain argued that the pool amendment put a financial burden on property owners who may otherwise gain financially from the construction of a swimming pool on their properties.

“I did not realize what an issue this was to the value of homes,” he said, explaining that a heated pool extends the summer tourist season by four to six weeks in the spring and fall.

Tuman argued that North Topsail Beach has swimming pool restrictions in place for a reason.

“Other towns don’t have the restrictions, but other coastal towns are mature towns,” he said. “They have beach restoration. They have adequate protections.”

He said he understood a concern for the business side, but urged the Board of Aldermen to restore the town’s beaches and build a dune system before they allowed swimming pool construction on beachfront properties.

Cameron Kuegel, of River Road, directed his comments at property owners, saying although he understood pools bring in more money, they had the rest of the town to build pools.

“We are trying to save the town from getting washed away,” he said. “We cannot go backwards. This would be a step backward if we did this.”

Following the public hearing, Alderman Richard Peters made a motion in concordance with the fourth option proposed by McKay: allow construction 20 feet from the landward toe of the dune. The Board of Aldermen approved the motion 3-2, with Alderman Joann McDermon and Mayor Pro Tem Richard Macartney against.

Macartney justified his argument to the motion, saying he didn’t think it was the town’s responsibility to make more restrictions to property owners than what was already set in place by state regulations.

“We are the only town in North Carolina that has these strict ordinances,” Kuegel argued. “We’re also the only town in the state that’s about to ask for public funding to build a large structure. These things go hand in hand.”

Kuegel’s comment is in reference to erosion at the north end of Topsail Island, which has prompted North Topsail Beach and Onslow County to initiate a hardened structure project to protect the shoreline of the New River Inlet. For more information, visit NTBNC.org.