It’s like David and Goliath. A small community fighting big government. The Corolla Civic Association (CCA) is a volunteer, non-profit organization formed a decade ago to represent the interests of our small beach community to Currituck County and other government entities. We are the voice for the over 5,000 folks of Corolla -- including residents, property owners, business owners and 50,000+ summer guests per week. Although the beach area generates more than half of the total County tax revenue and almost all the tourism revenue, the beach taxpayers have virtually no say in County government. Miniscule little CCA needs your help before Corolla’s needs are totally crushed by the County colossus.
Please help CCA raise the funds necessary to hire strong, experienced appellate counsel to assist our local attorney in making our case to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. We need to raise $50,000+ over the next three months to be able to move forward to protect the rights of the citizens of our community who have very little voice in a County whose main concern about the Currituck OBX seems to be how much money can be milked from it.
Our County had been using Occupancy Tax (OT) tourism money for general government purposes in violation of NC law. Examples costing tens of millions of dollars include construction of parks and ball fields an hour or more from Corolla, a loan to finance a water system expansion, building a YMCA 50 miles from the beach, and other similar projects. These are all great things for the County, but they do not meet the legally defined standard for tourism-related expenses. Further, one wonders why costs for our normal public safety services (Sheriff and EMS) aren’t covered by our normal property taxes like elsewhere in the County?
In our research, we found that, after almost 20 years since the occupancy tax rate was increased and beach nourishment was an allowed expense, the County had set aside exactly $0 to restore our eroded beaches. Every other beach community on the OBX has already completed their nourishment projects or is moving aggressively to complete them. Meanwhile, our County leadership says, “Our beaches are fine.” The beach, by far the leading tourist attraction in Currituck County, is being neglected and even the County’s own engineering reports show that it is in danger.
For several years, CCA met with the County monthly to discuss local issues, but our suggestions mostly fell on deaf ears. As an example, CCA repeatedly pointed out the pedestrian safety issues along the single beach highway. The County took no action until three people were killed there. The County claimed it did not have the funds for a safe hike and bike path, but after investigation CCA found that the County had more than enough money. CCA brought local, state and DOT officials together to finally get this vital project started.
When CCA continued to question OT spending and sought greater transparency, the County reacted by shutting down our monthly meetings. When CCA members complained at open meetings they were cut short and belittled by County Commissioners.
CCA had no choice but to ask the Courts to intervene and clarify the law. As soon as the lawsuit was filed, the County threw all residents affiliated with CCA off County Advisory Boards declaring that they were ‘suing their bosses’. The County “cancels” any voices that disagree with them.
The County also appropriated $100,000 of OT funds to defend their OT spending by hiring a big city law firm! Clearly not what the NC law had in mind as appropriate use of OT dollars.
Despite CCA submitting an affidavit in support of our legal position from a state-wide tourism industry group (that actually helped write the current law we seek to enforce), a local judge ruled, without explanation, in the County’s favor. So, we have appealed.
Our goals for the lawsuit and beach life after?
• Clearly #1 is to see OT funds spent on tourism as mandated by NC Law.
• Beginning to lay aside funds for beach nourishment would be a great way to start.
• Then we would like to advocate for a non-political process and system separate from the Currituck County Board of Commissioners to manage the OT funds. Within that process, and perhaps the most important long-term goal is a Tourism Development Authority (TDA) separate from the Board of Commissioners (BOC) with representation from tourism related businesses and rental homeowners.
• Provide an organizational structure to represent the tourism needs of Corolla residents, businesses, and property owners as the primary day-to-day stewards of Currituck’s crown tourist jewel, our beaches.
Help Corolla’s David continue the battle to take down the Currituck County Goliath and Save Our Community!