Editorial: Prison Fence Bad For Property Values

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 29 October 2014 04:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

A bike path that increases the community's quality of life and property values is one that is not bordered by a tall chain link fence topped with barbed wire. In quiet residential areas of Carolina Beach such a fence will stand out like a sore thumb and negatively impact the community as a whole.
For many years the Town of Carolina Beach has been working on a new Greenway or bike and pedestrian path connecting various parts of Pleasure Island.
The portion of the path that is currently creating controversy - and rightfully so - runs behind homes bordering the land upon which the path will be built. That land is owned by the U.S. Army - in particular the Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point or MOTSU for short.
The Town asked for permission to locate the path upon their land. In doing so, the Army countered with a requirement to install a prison-yard style fence along the border of their land and residential properties in neighborhoods such as Carolina Sands and Seagrove in the southern half of Carolina Beach.
Carolina Sand residents are upset because several years ago they were told the path and fence would be located a good distance west of a retention pond behind their subdivision. Recently someone viewed a map that placed the path in a much different location directly behind their neighborhood.
Fears of having to view a horrifying barbed-wire fence outside their windows replacing a view of trees with metal and sharp wires understandably raised concerns among residents. The first concern is the negative impact to their quiet enjoyment of residential property. They have historically not had to worry about the potential addition of an industrial or prison style fence bordering their properties. Something that would not be permitted under the Town's zoning ordinance in - or bordering on - any residential district in Town.
The second concern is the factual negative impact it will have on property values. Take the same house and try to sell it with and without a ten foot tall barbed wire fence bordering the backyard and you will see a substantial difference in selling price. Over the years pro-bike-path supporters have argued with non-path-supporters that such paths connect the community and in fact - based on various studies - will increase property values by adding a positive amenity to the community. 
Those studies don't factor in a path such as the one planned behind the Carolina Sands and Seagrove neighborhoods secured and secluded by a barbed-wire chain link fence.
Those studies include accessible paths running throughout communities connecting neighborhoods to other areas such as commercial districts and schools.
The portion of the path proposed to run behind these two neighborhoods will not actually serve those neighborhoods. The fence dictates that fact.
Therefore, the path will connect Mike Chappel Park on Dow Road to Alabama Avenue. That's it. It won't create a path for kids to ride their bikes to school (it's totally out of the way and secured by a fence). It will not connect Carolina Sands or Seagrove residents to other parts of Town unless they ride to either end of the path (several thousand feet in either direction) and that defeats the purpose of using the path for those many residents.
It might serve those-diehard bike riders who like to hit the road on Saturdays for a group outing. But other than that, residents living in these two particular neighborhoods will have to view others using the path through the very links and barbed wire of the fence that will cut them off from the path.
If MOTSU is set on requiring such a fence, the Town should abandon the plan. The first reason: The path will not benefit a large segment of the community that it borders and therefore will not increase quality of life for a large number of residents. Second: Any perceived increase in community property values because of the amenity will be negatively offset by a decrease in property values for those owners living adjacent to the path and fence.
When selling homes in those neighborhoods, Real Estate Agents are not likely to boast, "Easy access to a beautiful greenway path if you can pole-vault over the barbed-wire fence carrying a bike."
Here's a simple question to ask elected leaders: Would you argue with your neighbor if they wanted to install a chain link barbed-wire fence backing up to your backyard?
And this comes after elected leaders expressed concern about the Army planning to require a similar fence bordering residential properties along Snow's Cut - the Intracoastal Waterway.
The Army said they want to begin operations on that long undeveloped land and one of the changes was the installation of a chain link barbed-wire fence. That got the Town Council upset and they called upon the Army to hold a public meeting. They expressed their dislike for that scenario.
They should stick to their guns when it comes to path. Tell MOTSU it's not an option and if MOTSO officials say too bad, then abandon the path. A path along the side of Dow Road will serve to connect various parts of the Island.
Which is ironic because MOTSU doesn't require a chain link fence topped with barbed wire along either side of Dow Road - a state road that runs directly through the MOTSU property.
Which by the way is referred to as the "buffer zone" or "blast zone" because the Army operates the largest ammunition depot on the East Coast at MOTSU located on the other side of the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County. A large portion of the land mass we call Pleasure Island (Carolina Beach and Kure Beach) is encompassed by a buffer zone taken by the Army in the 1950's from private property owners using eminent domain.
The buffer zone is supposed to shield the citizens of Pleasure Island from any "incident" or "blast" at the Terminal when loading or storing explosives.
Another ironic observation really adds insult to injury. A few years ago MOTSU officials gave permission to the Town of Kure Beach to clear brush and construct a Disc Golf Course within the buffer zone. Ironic part? To my knowledge and after visiting the course, they didn't require a chain link fence topped with barded-wire. Perhaps if the Town of Carolina Beach changes the name from "Greenway" to "Disc Golf Course" we can escape the fence requirement and sell sponsorships for each hole on the course to help offset the cost of the path.

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