Topsail Island is a Top Sale
Posted July 6, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
SURF CITY — This Sunday marks a devastating anniversary for the people along the North Carolina coast. On July 12th, 1996 Hurricane Bertha stormed ashore. Her winds ripped apart buildings and sent homes tumbling to the ground.
Topsail Island was one of the hardest hit areas. Roads were completely washed out and row after row of homes were damaged or destroyed.
Today it is a very different place. In spite of the storm's destruction, Topsail Island's neighborhoods are growing faster than they have in decades.
In the first six months of this year, the three cities on Topsail Island approved building permits for more than 80 new homes.
"It shows that we're bringing in more people down here, and the people who had their homes, pretty much, they're all fixed back and they're on the market and being sold," real estate broker John Kelly said.
The new homes are going up in spite of federal laws that make it more difficult to build. For instance, any new beach front home is required to be at least 60 feet behind the initial wall of sand dune vegetation.
New structures have to be built better than those built before the storm, which means higher construction costs. Lenders say the better quality means lower insurance rates.
Still, the island is different since the storm. The loss of protective dunes means 150 homeowners are not allowed to rebuild.
"We have some struggles from time to time trying to deal with the ocean front property owners who want to build on their lot and the regulations say that they can't," Surf City Town Manager Andy Hedrick said.
Topsail still has more space to grow than many other beach communities, and builders believe that fact alone will continue to attract newcomers, hurricanes or not.
Pender County is not outgrowing the Triangle by sheer numbers, only percentage-wise. In fact, the Census Bureau says Pender is the fastest growing county in our state.