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Conservation Group Signs $8M Deal To Buy The Point On Topsail Island

By Audrey Elsberry, posted Mar 26, 2024
A 150-acre plot of beachfront property on Topsail Island in Pender County is slated for conservation after a purchase agreement between the sellers and Coastal Land Trust announced Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Coastal Land Trust)
Officials with North Carolina land preservation organization Coastal Land Trust announced Tuesday that they have entered an agreement to purchase about 150 acres of undeveloped property on Topsail Island for nearly $8 million after more than a year of turmoil over the site by community members.
 
Serenity Point, or The Point, on the south end of Topsail Island in Pender County, is one of the largest and last remaining tracts of undeveloped beachfront land on North Carolina’s barrier islands, said Coastal Land Trust executive director Harrison Marks. The organization will have to fundraise the purchase price of the property through a bridge loan, federal and state grants and private donations, he said.
 
“This is one of the most visible and most beloved properties that I'm aware of,” Marks said. “I don't know that we've had any quite like this.”
 
Coastal Land Trust negotiated and signed a contract to purchase The Point to place it into permanent conservation, according to Tuesday’s announcement. The group has already placed an earnest money deposit down on the property, Marks said, and has one year to raise the $8 million purchase price.
 
Three families, the McCullens, McLeods and Oppegaards, have owned the undeveloped parcel since the 1960s, allowing the public of Topsail Island to use the beach land recreationally. In 2022, Todd Olson, CEO of Raleigh software company Pendo, proposed a rezoning of the property to the Town of Topsail Beach with plans to purchase the lot and develop 20 out of its 150 acres.
 
The Olson family rescinded the rezoning request in November after the town placed conditions on the rezoning request and community members voiced strong opposition to the plans. Shortly after the Olson family backed out, Coastal Land Trust officials voiced interest in purchasing the plot through the sellers’ real estate broker, Cape Fear Commercial.
 
The Coastal Land Trust is urging individuals and organizations to donate and help fund the purchase. State and federal grant proposals have already been sent, Marks said, but the decisions on those grants won’t come back until late this year.
 
“[The Point’s] protection hinges on community support,” Marks said in the release.
 
Once the purchase is complete, the Coastal Land Trust plans to transfer maintenance of the property over to the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Coastal Management, according to the release.
 
“The owners are proud to entrust the future of our property to the Coastal Land Trust and the Division of Coastal Management,” Reneé McCullen, one of the Serenity Point owners, said on behalf of the three families in Tuesday’s release.
 
“It’s our hope that by preserving the South End, future generations will enjoy the restorative power the coastal environment provides and be reminded of what the entire island once resembled,” McCullen said.
 
Marks said the group expects that grants will cover the majority of the $8 million price tag. He did not specify how much the group applied for in grants but said if all the grants get approved, it will contribute at least more than $5 million. Private donations will still be required for a substantial amount, he said.
 
The parcel has 1.6 miles of shoreline fronting the Atlantic Ocean, New Topsail Inlet and Banks Channel. Wildlife such as loggerhead and beachgoing birds frequent the area. Dunes, estuarine wetlands and maritime shrub forests can also be found there, according to Coastal Land Trust’s release.
 
Look for WilmingtonBiz Magazine’s spring real estate issue for more information about the purchase of Serenity Point. The magazine is mailed to Business Journal subscribers beginning April 1.
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