What’s behind the recent wave of house moves in Surf City?

In recent weeks, visitors and residents coming to Topsail Island have been surprised to see large homes set off and cross the Surf City Bridge.

Police Chief Phillip J. Voorhees said it was a bit abnormal to see him twice in such a short time. Large structures were removed from Feb. 26 to March 19, according to public alerts posted by Surf City officials. This is something that raised eyebrows on social media.

“I think the last one we moved was probably a few years ago,” Voorhees said. “It doesn’t happen all the time.”

The work required the closure of the bridge. On Topsail Island, a third home was moved this year to North Topsail Beach on another bridge, but it was originally supposed to go through Surf City.

“As far as I know, this structure has been moved and we currently have no other permits pending for any other homes in Surf City,” Voorhees said.

Surf City Town Manager Kyle Breuer said the house move in recent weeks was a coincidence for the town. Residents were asked to expect delays and to obey police officers and flaggers giving directions.

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“We’re certainly doing everything we can to avoid disruption, but understand that it’s a process that needs to be done,” Breuer said. “There’s really only one way in and out of the island on the bridge.”

He added that Surf City officials are trying to do everything they can to educate the public and take steps for a smooth process, although it’s not an easy task.

“It’s about moving a house, so sometimes things can happen that cause that disruption and it’s definitely not intentional,” Breuer said. “I certainly understand, especially if you’ve arrived somewhere you need to be and haven’t received the notice. It can certainly come as a surprise, just like if there was an accident that blocked the roadway and that you couldn’t pass.”

Why now and how?

A house is moved across the bridge in Surf City by contractors, with the help of emergency officials.

The process has been delayed due to the pandemic and other corporate real estate issues.

It was approved by council, with coordination between the police and fire departments, and the contractors moving the structure. A permit is required from the North Carolina Department of Public Transportation (NCDOT). Voorhees, Carolina House Movers said, is usually the company selected for work through a contractor.

“We try to make sure the wheels of the trailer that the house is on are in motion, basically as soon as it’s light to avoid any disturbances,” Breuer said.

Voorhees said the NCDOT said they can start moving as soon as the sun is out and finds out when the sun is expected to rise.

“We have a stipulation with the mover, that at 6:43 in the morning, your wheels will move and we will move this house from here, so that we can do this as soon as possible.”

As for why owners want to move their properties, Breuer said he can only speculate.

“Most likely, it’s an older structure, and it probably still has viable life, so it’s worth moving it,” he said. “Usually a new house is built there.”

The oldest homes were delivered to Holly Ridge and Belt Road in Surf City.

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After going through the permitting process, which involved disconnecting the home from utilities, Voorhees said council members are asking for the removal to take place on a day that won’t disrupt traffic.

“They don’t let moves happen in the summer when we have high traffic with a high season,” he said. “We try to do this in the winter, early in the morning, with the least impact on our residents.”

Once arrangements are made with the contractors, two police officers are used to guide the structure off the island. Once out of jurisdiction, contractors must use another law enforcement agency to guide movers.

How long?

A few houses have recently been demolished on Topsail Island.

The process usually takes about an hour. The bridge was closed for less than 10 minutes each time. Firefighters and EMS services have been notified so they can gain access on or off the island in the event of an emergency.

“Our main focus is safety for everyone,” Voorhees said. “Safety for contractors, movers and safety for the public – and we want to inconvenience the public as little as possible, as far as traffic is concerned. We don’t want to interrupt anyone’s daily activity because they get stuck behind a house for 20 minutes.”

Voorhees said most motorists cooperated with authorities.

“You always have someone who’s going to be a little upset,” he said. “After they came back from the first one’s move, they told me there was a lady who was upset and kept honking their horn. For the most part, other than that person, we didn’t received no complaints.”

Journalist Chase Jordan can be reached at [email protected]