113A-134.3. Standards for public access program.

(a) The Commission, with the support of the Department, shall establish and carry out a program to assure the acquisition, improvement, and maintenance of a system of public access to coastal beaches and public trust waters. This public access program shall include standards to be adopted by the Commission for the acquisition of property and the use and maintenance of the property. The standards shall be written to assure that land acquisition funds shall only be used to purchase interests in property that will be of benefit to the general public. Priority shall be given to acquisition of lands that due to adverse effects of natural hazards, such as past and potential erosion, flooding, and storm damage, are unsuitable for the placement of permanent structures, including lands for which a permit for improvements has been denied under rules adopted pursuant to State law. The program shall be designed to provide and maintain reasonable public access and necessary parking, within the limitations of the resources available, to all coastal beaches and public trust waters where access is compatible with the natural resources involved and where reasonable access is not available.

(b) To the maximum extent possible, this program shall be coordinated with State and local beach and coastal water management and recreational programs and shall be carried out in cooperation with local governments. Prior to the purchase of any interests in property, the Secretary or his designee shall make a written finding of the public purpose to be served by the acquisition. Once property is purchased, the Department may allow property, without charge, to be controlled and operated by the county or municipality in which the property is located, subject to an agreement requiring that the local government use and maintain the property for its intended public purpose.

(c) Subject to any restrictions imposed by law, any funds appropriated or otherwise made available to the Public Beach and Coastal Waterfront Access Program (Program) may be used to meet matching requirements for federal or other funds. The Department shall make every effort to obtain funds from sources other than the General Fund to implement this program. Funds may be used to acquire or develop land for pedestrian access including parking and to make grants to local governments to accomplish the purposes of this Part. All acquisitions or dispositions of property made pursuant to this Part shall be in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 146 of the General Statutes. All grants to local governments pursuant to this Part for land acquisitions shall be made on the following conditions:

(1) The local government agrees to dedicate acquired lands in perpetuity for public access and for the benefit of the general public. The dedication shall be recorded in the office of the register of deeds in the county where the dedicated lands are located.

(2) If Program grant funds are used to acquire a lease or easement, the lease or easement agreement shall have a minimum term of 25 years.

(3) If the local government uses the property for a purpose other than beach or coastal waters access or elects to sell or otherwise dispose of the property, the local government shall reimburse the State an amount that is the greater of (i) the amount of Program grant funds provided to purchase the property or (ii) an amount equal to the same proportion of the current market value of the property as the proportion of the original purchase price of the property funded with Program grant funds. (1981, c. 925, s. 1; 1983, c. 334; c. 757, s. 13; 1987, c. 827, s. 145; 1989, c. 344, s. 2; c. 727, s. 137; c. 751, s. 13; 1995, c. 183, s. 4; 2021-158, s. 1.)