Carolina Beach Council Holds Workshop On Greenway Path

Carolina Beach Council Holds Workshop On Greenway Path Featured

By / Local News / الأربعاء, 19 تشرين2/نوفمبر 2014 05:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH  - The Town of Carolina Beach held a workshop on November 18th at Town Hall to give residents an opportunity to offer input on a planned 1.2 mile long greenway bike and pedestrian path that will be located along the border of land owned by the U.S. Army and  residential neighborhoods.
Area residents are upset over a plan to install a chain link fence topped with barbwire along the path to run from the area of Mike Chappel Park on Dow Road south to Alabama Avenue.
Residents living in the Carolina Sands neighborhood are upset because the path was previously planned to follow a line west of a retention pond behind their neighborhood. Recently they learned a map showed the path running east of that retention pond directly behind homes in their subdivision.
Residents are upset because they were never notified of the change in the plan and only found out about the change when neighbors spoke to survey crews last month when they were mapping the property line for the MOTSU land.
Town officials have said the path will be located on land owned by the U.S. Army as a buffer zone for the Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point (MOTSU). The terminal is the largest ammunition depot on the East Coast. Operations are located on the other side of the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County and the "buffer zone" occupies a large portion of Pleasure Island encompassing land in both Carolina Beach and Kure Beach on the riverside of the Island.
Since the Army owns the land, the Town has to meet their requirement to install a fence.
A fence was erected by the Town recently on land behind the Seagrove subdivision to stop people from dumping trash on MOTSU land. It is the same style fence that would be installed along the Greenway path.
There was some discussion about relocating the path in June of 2013. Councilman Steve Shuttleworth met with Col. Rupkalvis of MOTSU regarding the Island Greenway trail location. Shuttleworth informed Council at the time that, "The Town's request to locate a section of the trail on the west side of one of the detention ponds adjacent to Carolina Sands" was addressed during that meeting.
He explained in an email to Council that, "The Colonel will not agree to that location. He requires that if we want the trail it needs to be located on the eastern side of the detention pond. He will support moving it as far west as possible within the fire break. This will allow some additional buffer between Carolina Sands neighbors and the trail. His specific reasons for denial included the apparent constant trespassing by residents into the buffer area around the pond. Our residents have been repeatedly seen using the detention pond for recreational purposes, four wheeling, fishing and alligator trapping!"
During the November 18th, workshop, residents had an opportunity to meet informally with Town officials and representatives from MOTSU to look at maps of the greenway path and ask questions. Afterwards, a presentation was given outlining the project history.
The 1.2 mile long path is designed to provide pedestrian and bicycle connection between rapidly developing Wilmington Beach area and central neighborhoods to the north, Carolina Beach Elementary School, Lake Park, and the central business district. The path will be accessible at the park and Alabama Avenue as well as "street-ends" located along the path where streets dead-end at the MOTSU property line. Also, the path will cross two roads allowing for additional access points.
The path will be funded by a $586,031 grant. The Town will be required to match that grant with $146,508 for a total project cost of $732,539.
The final design of the plan will be presented at a public meeting in April. After soliciting bids and awarding a contract, construction would begin in June and be completed in November 2015.
Col. Chris Hart of MOTSU offered the Army's position on the path.
Hart said he's sensitive to the concerns of the residents because he has a family and owns a home and MOTSU is a neighbor to residents in Carolina Beach.
He said MOTSU supports the path in principle. They are trying to be partners and good neighbors with Carolina Beach and are willing to consider alternatives supported by local elected leaders.
He said, "We are being somewhat generous. This project gives at times 30' feet of federal land. At other times, as much as 100' feet of federal land for this project across 1.2 miles."
He explained, "I hope you understand I have an important mission. What we do at MOTSU is very important. We are one of only two large volume deep water ammunition terminals in the continental United States" and, "My number one priority is to be safest possible operation that we can be. Some of our decisions with respect to where the fence goes, why the fence goes, is related to safe operations. I'm sorry about that, but I take that very seriously."
Hart explained, "There has been significant encroachment on our federal land for years. These maps show that. If your neighbor encroached on your property like that, what would you do? What would you consider as a reasonable property owner?"
Mayor Dan Wilcox said the Town has recently reached out to residents answering phone calls and emails. He said, "I apologize to the people at Carolina Sands because this process has had some problems, no question about it. We've gone through a few Town Managers, Interim Town Managers, a change in Council, loss of four of our 30-year staff folks. There has been a lot of moving parts have changed and the message did not get out like it should have when we had the indicator previously from MOSTU that the path might not be allowed around the back of the pond."
Wilcox said the Council is always willing to hear from the residents on the issue.
Col. Hart explained, "The number one question I get is, why do we have to change where the path goes. I'm sorry about that. I'm not sure that we have to change where the bike path goes. We will consider it on both sides of the pond if that is what is presented to us by your representatives in Carolina Beach. However, there will still be a fence line on your side of the pond. Which means there will be like a double fence along the bike path going around the west side [of the pond] and there will still be a fence on the east side because that's the number one attractable nuisance there. There is obviously a lot of liability associated."
Hart said there will be a substantial buffer between residential properties, the bike path and then a fence running along the path. He said, "Another question that I have received and I'm happy to answer it is, if there's no Island Greenway Project, will there be no fence. The answer to that question is no, there will still be a fence."
He said, "I believe the fence is an inevitability because it is a standing requirement for years, we just have lacked the funds to put it in. Without the funds and it's not high enough on the priority list, the fence won't go up. That's a true statement. But it is a regulatory requirement that I have" and, "we have to have our regulatory requirements on the project list and it is, it's one of those long standing requirements it just hasn't been funded to date because of the prioritization."
He explained, "If there's no bike path the fence line could be right on the property line, probably not. It would probably be much closure to the property line. We would have to figure it out." He said without the path the fence would definitely be closure to area homes. He said, "This project allows us to push the fence farther away from our property line."
Carolina Sands resident Sandy Cecelski said she rides her bike to destinations throughout Town on a regular basis and supports linking the community with bike paths and routes.
She said their concerns center on safety and security. She said, "I am not in support of a stark sterile landscape prone to elicit activity behind my home. In addition, the negative impact on property values could be a disaster for many. Homeowners would have no choice but to install costly fences to protect their homes and also create a dark alley behind our house."
Cecelski said one alternative is to move the greenway path to an existing ditch area within the MOTSU buffer zone. Another idea is to purchase an easement on existing property within Carolina Sands that borders a neighborhood to the south. That would connect residential streets in the southern portion of Town to the rest of the Town without a need for the path on military land.
Alicia Devereaux lives on Alabama Avenue and expressed concerns about the path ending on that street. She said it would increase a mix of bike, pedestrian and vehicle traffic and impact their right to quiet enjoyment of their properties. She said homeowners backing out of their driveways will have to contend with additional bike traffic. She said the Town of Carolina Beach doesn't have the resources to patrol the area and that's a concern for safety of children and homes in the area.
She said, "I use to live on a bike path in Burlington Vermont and it was absolutely beautiful. It ran along Lake Champlain but it was also a major detraction to the homes that were adjacent to it. In fact, because of the increased theft and crime along and on that bike path it became known as felony highway."
Many residents spoke during the meeting offering varying opinions but generally conveying the same position in opposing the path and fence due to safety and security issues as well as visual impacts.
Several residents said they purchased their properties bordering the buffer zone because they knew the land would not be developed and enjoyed living in a quiet residential area. One resident said they built their home in Carolina Sands recently and had they known of the path running behind their home with a barbwire fence, they might not have purchased the land.
Town Manager Michael Cramer said all of the recommendations and input received from residents at the meeting will be summarized and submitted to Col. Hart for consideration. Another public meeting will be held sometime in April to approve of the final design for the Greenway Path.
Maps and information about the path can be found online at http://www.carolinabeach.org

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