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State redrawing setback lines near dunes

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

A public hearing on plans to adjust setback lines that protect dunes on Georgetown County beaches attracted only a handful of people Tuesday, and none of those present spoke against or in favor of the adjustments.

That’s not surprising as the proposed adjustments will have little effect on property owners, said Bill Eiser, project manager for the wetland permitting sector for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Ocean and Coastal Resource Management Office.

Setbacks must be at least 20 feet behind the primary dune system, but they vary along the coastline. Setbacks are determined by the annual erosion rate and are readjusted every 10 years as required by the Coastal Zone Management Act, which controls development on the beach.

DeBordieu Beach is the only beach in the county significantly affected by the readjustment taking place this year. The setback near the south end bulkhead will move 30 feet closer to the ocean, the result of a beach renourishment project.

Even so, the only real difference for homeowners in the affected area is that if their house is built right up to the new line and is destroyed, they’ll have to get approval to rebuild, Eiser said.

“A lot of people think you can’t build seaward of the baseline, but you just have to get a permit,” he explained.

New houses built between the crest of the primary dune and setback line are limited to 5,000 square feet of heated space and additions on existing houses must go landward or upward if they bring the house above the 5,000-square-foot limit. No new seawalls can be built between the crest and the setback line, and existing seawalls, if destroyed, can be replaced with sloping structures 10 feet from the building foundation.

The setback moved inland significantly at Prince George, near Pawleys Inlet, because of erosion, but Eiser said there are no homes in the affected area. It’s hard to tell how far the line moved inland, because the inlet has changed and there are no other landmarks to measure from, DHEC officials said.

There is no change to setbacks on Pawleys Island and only very minor changes for those on Litchfield and Huntington beaches, Eiser said.

Maps showing the proposed new lines can be viewed online at www.scdhec.gov/environment/ocrm/permit/beachfront. Comments on the lines will be accepted through April 23 and can be mailed to Bill Eiser at DHEC-OCRM, 1362 McMillan Ave., Suite 400, Charleston, SC 29405.

At the close of the public comment period, comments will be reviewed and DHEC will make a final decision regarding adoption of the lines, probably in mid-May, Eiser said.

For more information, contact Eiser at 953-0237 or eiserwc@dhec.sc.gov.

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