North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources
NC Division of Coastal Management
coastal hazards

Coastal Hazards & Storm Information :: Oceanfront Development Setbacks


15A NCAC 07H.0305 (effective April 1, 2008)

15A NCAC 07H.0306 (effective Aug. 11, 2009)

15A NCAC 07J.1200 (effective March 23, 2009)


Staff recommendations to CRC for Jan. 18, 2008 meeting:

On Thursday, Nov. 29, the CRC held a public hearing for the following draft rule amendments at the CRC's meeting at the City Hotel and Bistro in Greenville, N.C.

Stakeholder input received as of Nov. 1, 2007

Background
The original CAMA construction setback rules were established in 1979. When the initial rules were developed, North Carolina had experienced only three hurricanes in the preceding 20 years and oceanfront development consisted of less dense placement of predominately smaller, single-family structures. With the exception of Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach, beach fill projects were not common. Since 1979, development has become larger and denser, the population of oceanfront counties has nearly doubled, 12 hurricanes have hit the State (eight in the past decade), and beach fill projects have become a more frequent response to the erosion problems that many beach communities presently face. In light of these changes, and with the thirty-year management window quickly approaching (i.e., 2009), discussion of the effectiveness of existing rules and consideration of factors that could/should be addressed for the next thirty years is appropriate.

setback_data_low.jpg (329551 bytes)

(Select figure to enlarge)

Figure 1: Changes in the NC coastal zone since 1940. Vertical blue line marks 1979, the date the current CAMA setback policy was implemented. Graph A shows the current size and year built of 1,000 existing single-family oceanfront homes in North Carolina. B shows cumulative beach fill costs and volume emplaced over time in North Carolina (data courtesy of Duke/Western Carolina PSDS). C shows cumulative population of oceanfront counties over time, and D shows hurricane strikes by decade.

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Current Setback Policy (15A NCAC 7H.0306)

1)     Single-family structures : regardless of
single-family_schematic.jpg (50905 bytes)structure size, setback is 30 times
the long-term average annual
erosion rate (minimum of 60 ft.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2)     Multi-family and commercial structures
a)     <5,000 ft2: setback is 30 times the long-term average annual erosion rate
b)     >5,000 ft2:

i) If erosion rate is <3.5 ft/yr, setback is 60 times the long-term average annual erosion rate
ii) If erosion rate is >3.5 ft/yr, setback is 30 times the long-term average annual erosion rate plus 105 feet.

multi-family_schematic.jpg (11120 bytes)


Proposed Setback Policy

CRC I&S memo07-05 and draft setback rule language

The proposed oceanfront setbacks are based on total square footage regardless of whether the structure is single-family, multi-family, or commercial.  Current rules provide an exemption for single-family structures, regardless of size, to be set back 30 times the erosion rate. 

In the proposed policy, the minimum setback factor remains 30 times the erosion rate for all structures less than 5,000 ft2 but, as it does with existing policy, jumps to 60 times the erosion rate for structures greater than 5,000 ft2.  The setback increases from 60 to 90 in increments of 5 as total square footage increases, and the maximum setback becomes 90 for structures greater than or equal to 100,000 ft2. 

The setback factors for larger structures (i.e., >5,000 ft2) are not reduced for areas with higher shoreline erosion rates (current rules require commercial and multi-family structures 5,000 ft2 to be setback 60 times the erosion rate until the rate reaches 3.5 feet per year, at which point the setback becomes 30 times the erosion rate plus 105 feet). 

Finally, development such as roads, parking lots, and other public infrastructure such as utilities continue to have the same setback factors as under current policy (i.e., setback factor of 30 if total area <5,000 ft2 and setback factor of 60 if total area 5,000 ft2 or greater).

Setback Distance Based on Erosion Rate

Total Square Footage

Setback Factor

2 ft/year

3 ft/year

4 ft/year

5 ft/year

6 ft/year

less than 5,000 sq ft

30

60'

90'

120'

150'

180'

5,000 - 9,999 sq ft

60

120'

180'

240'

300'

360'

10,000 - 19,999 sq ft

65

130'

195'

260'

325'

390'

20,000 - 39,999 sq ft

70

140'

210'

280'

350'

420'

40,000 - 59,999 sq ft

75

150'

225'

300'

375'

450'

60,000 - 79,999 sq ft

80

160'

240'

320'

400'

480'

80,000 - 99,000 sq ft

85

170'

255'

340'

425'

510'

100,000 sq ft or greater

90

180'

270'

360'

450'

540'

Table 1.  Tabulated breakdown of proposed setback factors based on square footage.  The multiplication of this setback factor by annual erosion rates provides an example of setback distances from the vegetation line (or other appropriate measurement line).

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Stakeholder Input

The Division of Coastal Management is currently encouraging stakeholder input on the proposed oceanfront setback policies described above. If you would like to submit comments or have any questions, please contact Jeff Warren, Coastal Hazards Specialist, Email: coastalhazards@ncmail.net; Phone: (919) 733.2293, ext.241; Fax: (919) 733.1495. Mailing address: North Carolina Division of Coastal Management, 1638 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1638

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More Information

Listed below are downloadable documents and memos relevant to existing and proposed setback policies. 

Existing setback policy

  • CRC I&S 89 (January 11, 1983): Increased setback for immovable structures

  • CRC 221 (July 19, 1983): Average unit size for four-unit structures

  • CRC 234 (September 22-23, 1983): Oceanfront setback for large structures

  • CRC 234A (September 22-23, 1983): Bibliography relating to setbacks

  • CRC I&S 282 (January 8, 1992): Proposed amendment to the definition of large structures

  • CRC I&S 287A (March 13, 1992): Small building setbacks and house-moving industry survey

  • CRC I&S 287 (March 18, 1992): Continued discussion of the “Dawson Amendment Request” to change the definition of large structures

Proposed setback policy

Last Modified: September 21, 2009

N.C. Division of Coastal Management . 400 Commerce Ave . Morehead City, NC 28557
1-888-4RCOAST . Email Us