• Washed out: Hurricane Sandy 
obliterated more than a half-dozen pools in the town of Duck, N.C. Town officials recently passed an ordinance placing a 30-foot buffer between pools and sand dunes.

    Credit: Photo courtesy The Town of Duck

    Washed out: Hurricane Sandy obliterated more than a half-dozen pools in the town of Duck, N.C. Town officials recently passed an ordinance placing a 30-foot buffer between pools and sand dunes.

Want to build a pool in Duck, N.C.? It might have to be smaller than you’d like.

The coastal community recently approved a new ordinance placing a 30-foot buffer between swimming pools and sand dunes’ first line of vegetation.

Duck’s new ordinance takes the state’s long-standing Coastal Area Management Act a step further: State law requires 60-foot setbacks for homes, but that does not apply to accessory structures, such as pools and decks.

Under the new code, 43 oceanfront properties will not be eligible for pools as they’re commonly built, according to the town’s impact study. However, those homeowners could explore other options.

“In some cases, the pool might have to be a little smaller or configured a different way,” said Andy Garman, director of community development. They might also be able to install a pool on the west side of a house, rather than oceanfront, he added.

The law was passed in response to Hurricane Sandy, which devastated approximately a mile of the town’s shoreline, washing out eight to 10 backyard pools. When folks began rebuilding, few took precautions. In some cases, new pools were perched along the edges of not-yet-established dunes — essentially piles of unconsolidated sand — in an area vulnerable to erosion. “So in the next storm, the thought was those pools would be right back out there in the same situation,” Garman said. “The general consensus was that it was just an irresponsible thing to do.”

Pete Kelly, owner of Caribbean Pools and Spas in the neighboring town of Kitty Hawk, replaced two pools lost to Hurricane Sandy. He’s less concerned about how the new ordinance will impact his bottom line than he is about maintaining the area as a major tourist destination. “We’re in a unique area in that we’re 80 miles long and two miles wide, so conservation is critical in the long term,” he said.

Many of the backyard pools in this town that 369 people call home are attached to vacation rentals. Some builders say shrinking pools could irk renters. “One year they’re advertising a decent-sized pool; the next year it’s a kiddie pool,” said Tom May, owner of Southern Scapes Pool & Landscape Design in Jarvisburg.

Outer Banks pool builder Brant Honey-cutt sees the ordinance eroding landowners’ rights to build as they see fit. “Who it’s really going to impact are the homeowners,” he said.

Duck’s new ordinance is similar to a state law that North Carolina’s coastal management division tried to pass several years ago. While the proposed bill didn’t garner the support of the general assembly, municipalities can make their land use laws stricter than the state’s.

Duck is the first to take a tougher stance on setbacks. So far, there’s nothing indicating other Outer Banks communities are following its lead, said Michele Walker, spokeswoman for the state’s Division of Coastal Management.