The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) on Thursday filed a petition against a Sunset Beach development permit. The SELC filed it on behalf of the North Carolina Coastal Federation and the Sunset Beach Taxpayers’ Association, which are plaintiffs in a petition for a contested hearing against the permit.

The North Carolina Division of Coastal Management gave the permit to Sunset West LLC in June; this permit allows the development group to illegally bulldoze 15 acres of sand dunes to build 21 ocean-front homes in Sunset Beach.

Dunes provide habitat for birds and are vital protection for the Town of Sunset Beach against storms and hurricanes. The area in question is also a popular place for residents and visitors to spend time birdwatching and fishing.

The federation states that the permit should have never been issued because of the damage the development would cause to dunes. The proposed development is also near Bird Island, which for years has been a wildlife sanctuary. The property is also the former site of Mad Inlet and until 2014 was designated as an inlet hazard area.

The property is also located in a federally-designated Coastal Barrier Resources Act zone, meaning that any development there would not have access to public utilities. Sunset West LLC says it plans to install septic systems, which are prohibited by the Sunset Beach land use plan.

The SELC filed the permit to the state Office of Administrative Hearings. This development at Sunset Beach has been the source of controversy for months, in part because the Town of Sunset Beach claims it owns part of the property Sunset West LLC wants to develop.

In July, the vice chairman of the Coastal Resources Commission approved a request for a third-party contested hearing but denied a request to hear the appeal of the property ownership issue. She said in a statement that the CRC and the administrative hearing division is not the appropriate venue for the property rights issue.

The federation advocates for inlet and beach management that disturbs as little natural habitat as possible. More information about its advocacy efforts can be found at

For more information, please contact Mike Giles at or (252) 393-8185, ext. 203.