The Atlantic Ocean is gnawing at the edges of North Topsail Beach, N.C. It's an ongoing battle for townsfolk, but the past year has brought striking and dramatic changes. In September, local station WWAY-TV (ABC Channel 3) reported that an asphalt parking lot built just a year before was washing away—and putting local policymakers in a tough spot (see: "Parking Lot Washing Away, Sandbags to Come," by Hannah Patrick).

"Town Manager Stuart Turille said this lot is one of four parking lots that were built with the help of a grant," the station reported. "He said when they went to build this lot a year ago, the situation was very different."

“We had a much wider riparian beach fronting the lot,” Turille told the station. “There was a strong dune. It just shows you how rapidly situations change in the area.”

For North Topsail Beach, the past year has been one of struggle against the encroaching sea. Last January the town had to take emergency action, as the News and Observer reported at the time (see: "Eroding North Topsail Beach turns to sandbags to save 20 homes," by Colin Campbell). Sandbags placed at that time seem to have staved off the ocean's onslaught—but they faced a threat from another source: vandalism. Local station WITN had a report in May (see: "Sandbag vandalism at North Topsail Beach").

But now the town has a challenge that may prove to be tougher than piling up sandbags: getting the homeowners behind the emergency seawall to help pay for it. Local station WCTI News Channel 12 had this report in early November (see: "North Topsail Beach residents owe $1.4 million for sandbags," by Beth Lawrence).

"The board of aldermen voted unanimously at a public hearing to charge 39 property owners a total of about $1.4 million for actions the town has taken to prevent erosion in their front yards," the station reported. "North Topsail Beach Mayor Dan Tuman lives in the River Inlet area and said he approves of the plan to charge homeowners for sandbags to prevent erosion."

But homeowners are objecting, saying they didn't authorize the town to install the sandbags and shouldn't have to pay. "A lawyer representing the owners of 36 of the 39 homes says they will be filing a challenge to the assessment," WCTI reported.