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  • Patrick Kelly, who leads the erosion control committee for Riviera Beach Community Improvement Association, explained that a recently built 550-foot-long rock jetty has helped bring back a beach that eroded away back in the 1970s.
    Photo by Dylan Roche
    Patrick Kelly, who leads the erosion control committee for Riviera Beach Community Improvement Association, explained that a recently built 550-foot-long rock jetty has helped bring back a beach that eroded away back in the 1970s.

Special Tax District Helps Riviera Beach Maintain Waterfront Living

Dylan Roche
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July 12, 2017

Living close to the water has its perks, especially during the summer months, but it can also have its challenges. Take Riviera Beach for example. When tides and extreme weather threaten to erode parts of the community’s waterfront property, residents must work to fight those effects and sometimes even counteract them.

“We’re proactive about it,” said Patrick Kelly, who presides over the erosion committee for the Riviera Beach Community Improvement Association. “We go around the entire community every year to see where there are issues.”

Otherwise, extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, and the flooding that comes with high tide would wash away the shoreline. The erosion committee ensures that there is no long-term damage.

As Kelly explained, Riviera Beach is part of a special tax district formed in the 1970s to create a budget for projects on the shoreline. “It’s almost like a home association fee the county collects for you and then they divvy the money up to you,” he described. “But you have to be very strict in that you have to submit bills. The county is very meticulous with how you spend the money.”

Special tax districts must be requested by at least two-thirds of the owners of real estate property in the district by parcel count and by assessed valuation. “Anybody who has been out to Riviera Beach understands it’s ripe for erosion problems,” said Owen McEvoy, spokesman for Anne Arundel County. “It faces unique challenges in that it’s a peninsula right on the Chesapeake Bay. That benefit district is a demonstration of a community coming together and recognizing they have special needs and they’re committed to seeing to those needs together and ensuring their community thrives for years to come.”

According to Kelly, Riviera Beach’s erosion committee relies on input from engineers to advise them on the priority of projects. The engineer can provide site plans, and then the community has to obtain the permits and put out a bid for a contractor.

“We shoot for three bids,” explained John Bass, a member of the erosion committee. “We don’t necessarily choose the cheapest because sometimes somebody is much more qualified to do a better job. We try to weigh it all and balance it.”

In the past, the community has faced problems where a contractor has tried to “dump and run” — that is, put the project together sloppily and then consider his job done.

But Kelly and Bass agree that other contractors, such as Stephen Waltjen with Chesapeake Bay Stone Structure, have done an outstanding job. Waltjen recently built a 550-foot-long, 4-foot-high rock jetty on Rock Creek, thus bringing back a beach that had long since eroded away. The project cost more than $250,000 and it took three years to pay for it. Kelly estimates that over the past 10 years, the erosion committee has handled four projects for a total of about $600,000.

Each of these projects is undertaken to protect community property. Erosions problems and threats that affect personal property are up to the individual homeowners.

One of the benefits of a special tax district, as McEvoy explained, is that it allows parts of the county to undertake these specific projects that otherwise wouldn’t affect people in other parts of the county. “It means that, essentially, Odenton doesn’t have to pay for dredging in Riviera Beach,” he said. Although the county has certain environmental standards, there are some communities that want to go beyond that. “They want to maintain a quality of environmental control above the county standards,” he said.

But not everyone is happy with every project that is undertaken. “There’s always contention,” Kelly said, giving as an example the jetty on Rock Creek beach. County guidelines require a forestation buffer following any construction project, and some residents were worried that trees would obstruct their water view.

This is one of the reasons the erosions committee keeps an open-door policy. “Anybody with erosion projects, or anybody wanting to know what we do with our money, can come to the meetings,” Kelly said. Committee meetings are held on the third Monday of the month at 7:00pm at McDonald’s on Fort Smallwood Road.

By working together, communities like Riviera Beach can work with the county to preserve their amenities for years to come. “Anne Arundel County has a lot of these [special tax districts] because we have a lot of waterfront communities that want to maintain a certain quality of life, and to do that, you have to have erosion control and dredging,” McEvoy said. “If you leave Mother Nature to her own devices, beaches just get washed away.”


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