Local News

Federal Government True to Its Word: No Money for North Topsail

Posted July 22, 1996 7:00 a.m. EDT

— July 23, 1996 - 4:05 p.m. EDT

North Topsail Beach enjoyed a real estate boom in 1980, despite warnings from scientists that anything built there was doomed.

While reports on the fragility of the coastal area were ignored by developers, they were heeded by the U.S. Congress. It warned North Carolina that the northern third of the island would not see federal disaster aid money if a hurricane ever struck. That word came in the form of the 1982 Coastal Barriers Resources Act and it is, indeed, being enforced now.

Just over a week ago, Hurricane Berthadidmake landfall on North Topsail Beach, creating millions of dollars worth of damage. Crews began cleaning up immediately after the storm. Downed trees and huge drifts of sand from the island's man-made dunes were bulldozed away. The clean-up price tag is also in the millions, but, as predicted, none of it is coming from federal coffers.

Marlow Bostic, Sr. was a major developer of that area, and he says the people who bought houses on North Topsail's beachessawthe property and knew the risks they were taking.

While the state's Coastal Resources Commission tried to establish a buffer zone between the ocean and any buildings, and while environmentalists and geologists protested, Bostic and his partner, Roger Page, persuaded Onslow County and state officials to help them gain access for development of more property in the 1980's.

Since then, Bostic has spent some time in prison for trying to hide his assets after he and Page were ordered to pay $11.6 million for the fraudulent selling of properties. Last week, he tried to get back into the development business but the state denied his request for a general contracting license.

Orrin Pilkey, a geology professor at Duke University who studies beaches and erosion, says he still thinks North Topsail beach is doomed.

He's not alone.

Other scientists who study coastal areas say, despite the amount of damage Bertha did, the worst is yet to come