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Section 6: Permit Exemptions

The Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) excludes certain activities, such as highway maintenance, agriculture and silviculture from permit requirements {GS 113A-103 (5)(b)}.

In addition, the Coastal Resources Commission has defined certain types of minor maintenance and improvement work that do not require a CAMA permit. However, you must receive an exemption certificate before you perform this work {15A NCAC 7K}.

Is My Work Exempt?

The following categories of work may qualify for an exemption:

  • Additions and Modifications to Simple Structures – The CRC exempts simple additions or modifications to existing bulkheads, piers, docks, boathouses and boat ramps that already have permits. This exemption is intended to allow simple modifications for private use. However, the project must still meet specific rules to qualify for the exemption.

  • Maintenance and Expansion – The Coastal Resources Commission exempts the maintenance and expansion of certain projects that have state easements and/or state Dredge-and-Fill permits. These projects qualify for the exemption if:

  • the dimensions don't exceed 20 percent of the dimensions originally permitted;

  • the project's purpose or primary use does not change;

  • the maintenance or expansion will not damage the natural environment and/or adjacent property owners.

Figure 6.1

  • Emergency Maintenance and Repairs – "Emergency maintenance and repairs" includes any activity that is a response to a sudden, unexpected event (such as a hurricane or other major storm) that significantly threatens life or property.

A structure in the ocean hazard area is considered imminently threatened when its foundation is less than 20 feet from the toe of the erosion scarp (see Figure 6.1). This exemption is limited to actions that will prevent further danger or restore the property to its condition prior to the emergency. It does not cover additions or expansions to the property.

Check with the Division of Coastal Management to determine if your project qualifies for an exemption before you begin work.

  • Single-Family Residences in the Estuarine Shoreline AEC – The CRC has exempted single-family residences built within the estuarine shoreline AEC, if the structure is built more than 40 feet landward of the normal water level. To qualify for this exemption, no land-disturbing activities may take place between your house and the water.

  • You may build a walkway from the house to the water, if the walkway is no wider than 6 feet. However, in eroding areas, this exemption applies only when Coastal Management determines that the house has been placed as far landward as possible on the lot (it must be at least 40 feet from the shoreline).

  • In all cases, the building must meet all other applicable CAMA permit standards and comply with all applicable local land use plans and ordinances. Before beginning any work under this exemption, you must notify Coastal Management of the dimensions of the building, its location and the landowner's name, address and telephone number.

  • Single-Family Residences in the High Hazard Flood AEC – The CRC has exempted single-family houses and associated infrastructure in the High-Hazard Flood AEC from permit requirements as long as the development is consistent with other CAMA standards and the local land-use plan. Additions to existing houses also are exempt under the rule.

Any house to be built in the AEC has to meet certain requirements:

  • It cannot also be located in the Ocean Erodible or Inlet Hazard AEC.

  • It must be built on pilings and comply with the N.C. Building Code and local flood-damage prevention ordinance.

  • The project must not require any other state or federal authorization.

  • Accessory Uses – The CRC also exempts accessory uses or structures related to the main use of the site, provided those structures do not exceed 200 square feet of floor area and don't require electricity, plumbing or other service connections.

To qualify for this exemption, your project:

  • must not disturb more than 200 square feet of land area on a slope greater than 10 percent;

  • must not remove, damage or destroy threatened or endangered plants or animals;

  • must not alter surface drainage channels;

  • must not alter the form or vegetation of a frontal dune;

  • must have statements of "no objection" from adjacent riparian property owners;

  • must not be within 30 feet of any permanent surface waters; and

  • must comply with all applicable CAMA standards and local land use plans in effect at the time.

  • Structural Maintenance and Repair – CAMA exempts the maintenance and repair (but not replacement) of any damaged structure, provided the repair is less than 50 percent of the value of the structure, or 50 percent of the structural elements of a water-dependent structure as described in 7J.0210.

  • Installation and Maintenance of Sand Fencing – Sand fences that are installed and maintained in accordance with the following criteria are exempt from CAMA permit requirements:

  • The fencing must be no taller than 5 feet and built from evenly spaced thin wooden vertical slats connected with twisted wire.

  • The fencing must be placed as far landward as possible to avoid interference with sea turtle nesting, public access and use of the beach. It must not be placed on the wet-sand beach.

  • If fencing is to be placed parallel to the shoreline, it must not be located waterward of the crest of the frontal or primary dune.

  • If fencing is to be placed waterward of the crest of the dune, it must be installed at a 45-degree or greater angle to the shoreline. Each section of fence must not be longer than 10 feet, and sections must be spaced at least 7 feet apart.

  • Fencing must not extend more than 10 feet beyond either the first line of stable natural vegetation, the toe of the frontal or primary dune, or the erosion escarpment of the dune, whichever is closest to the water.

  • Sand fencing to be placed along public accesses may be as long as the access, and may include a 45-degree funnel on the waterward end. The funnel may extend up to 10 feet beyond the end of the access.

How to Apply for an Exemption

To receive an exemption certificate, contact your Coastal Management district office. There currently is no fee for most exemptions.