Coastal South Carolina

Rolling easements were established on South Carolina’s coast in the Beach Front Management Act of 1988. This allows development, but prohibits structures from being built within a certain zone which rolls back with an encroaching shoreline. It allows natural habitats to migrate without impediments, while providing flexibility to property owners and coastal communities.

Hilton Head, SC. Photo by Lee Coursey via  Flickr .

Hilton Head, SC. Photo by Lee Coursey via Flickr.

Project Overview

The Beach Front Management (BFM) Act of 1988 was put in place to establish a setback line on the coast of South Carolina. As such, some landowners on the sea side of the setback line owned property that no longer held its original value. In response, the legislature was prompted to amend the Beach Front Management Act in 1990 to allow for a rolling easement on any lot located on the sea side of the setback line.

Rolling easements are a special type of easement placed along the shoreline to prevent property owners from holding back the sea through hard shoreline stabilization structures, but allow any other type of use and activity on the land. As the sea advances, the easement automatically moves or “rolls” landward. However, some “soft” erosion control methods can be used including beach renourishment, building up artificial dunes, and temporarily placing small sandbags around a home. If homes are damaged or destroyed during a storm, they are allowed to rebuild as long as high ground still exists. If the lot is submerged during high tide, rebuilding/repairing is no longer allowed.


Implementation & Funding

Because no land was physically changed during this process, the only actions taken by the government were those of the legislature to amend the BFM Act. No land acquisition process, or “takings,” was needed because all landowners were still allowed to use and develop on their land.


Economic Advantage

Since no physical changes were made, nor land acquired, the local, state, and national governments were not required to spend taxpayer dollars to implement rolling easements. Additionally, all land seaward of the setback line was able to be used at the property owner’s discretion, and any land could be used for profitability.