BOARDWALK EXTENSION AGAIN?!

By / Letters to the Editor / Wednesday, 21 October 2015 04:00

Dear Editor,
Just when you thought the boardwalk extension north was dead in the water, it is not!  The Town of Carolina Beach (TCB) turned in a new variance to the Coastal Resource Commission (CRC) on October 7, 2015 to extend the boardwalk north.  Enough is enough! This is their third attempt, having either been denied by the CRC or withdrawn because it was apparent the CRC was not voting in their favor. The only difference in this variance and previous variances is the reduction of the boardwalk from 16 feet to 10 feet.  The last three attempts were denied because:  
- Did not meet the 60 foot Ocean Hazard Setback
- Integrity of the dune was compromised
- Many homeowners living along the 875 feet were opposed to the extension
The TCB have been working secretively, behind closed doors, with plans to take down the opposition with a vengeance.  At no time since October 2014, when they withdrew their variance, did they attempt to address any of our concerns or our proposal. The opposition proposes that the Town of Carolina Beach (TCB) connect the new hotel to the existing boardwalk and stop the boardwalk extension at the northern boundary of the new hotel.  If the boardwalk extension is an integral part of the new hotel project, connecting the existing boardwalk with four out of five access ramps that are ADA compliant and making the hotel access ADA compliant, will meet the needs of all concerned.  Also, they should upgrade all existing walkovers from the Carolina Beach Pier to the existing boardwalk and make them ADA compliant.  This proposal will meet the needs of the general public, elderly, handicapped and the new hotel.  
In my opinion, their stealth approach was:
To secretly hire a high-priced attorney, probably at taxpayers’ expense, to overpower and overspend their way to approval
To keep the opposition from talking to the CRC Commissioners at a meeting prior to the vote
To keep the opposition from mounting a proper, timely defense
How can you trust a local government that is not transparent?  Are they working for themselves or for taxpayers they report to serve?  We need an open government that has integrity and will not close the door when there is opposition. 
The TCB keeps saying that “there are growing pressures to build additional public beach access”.  They have not provided any justification or factual information that warrants that claim.  It is my contention that the new, existing boardwalk and the existing beach access points are sufficient to meet the needs of the general public, elderly and handicapped.  There exists 21 beach access points from the Carolina Beach Pier, including the five ramps at the existing boardwalk.  Public Access is providing a perpendicular walkway (walkover) to the beach, not a parallel structure like the boardwalk proposed.  There is at least one perpendicular access every ¼ mile (1,320 feet).  An additional access area is not needed in the 875 feet of the proposed boardwalk extension plan. The problem is the availability of public parking not whether there is sufficient beach access.  This parking problem will only be exasperated by the building of the new hotel, which will utilize some of the designated public parking spaces.  The existing public parking, even though lacking, is centrally located which provides easy access and flow to adequate sidewalks connecting the boardwalk, marina and oceanfront hotels.  A boardwalk is not needed to connect to the marina because people will access the marina directly from the public parking areas.  Also, plenty of beach access areas exist stretching from Freeman Park to Fort Fisher.  Lack of parking and illegal parking is commonplace, which stretches from Carolina Beach Pier to Fort Fisher.
By building the boardwalk extension, it will cause an undue hardship to the homeowners along the proposed 875 feet.  Here are the reasons why:
- Damage to inland structures from water or wind driven debris from the boardwalk due to a major storm or hurricane.
- Safety and security will be compromised when troublemakers hop the boardwalk and enter private property.
- Diminished access and views of dunes and ocean.
- Increased noise and littering.
- Decreased privacy due to boardwalk being open 24 hours a day.
Since monitoring the existing boardwalk is a major problem, who will be responsible for vandals and damages to the proposed boardwalk?  Who will be responsible for cleaning up the bottles, bags, cigarette butts along the dunes?  Do you want to bring the problems of the streets to the backyard of the homeowners along the 875 foot stretch of boardwalk?  This will destroy the serenity, beauty and peacefulness that the ocean and dunes provide.
 Supposedly, town code prohibits loitering on the boardwalk and has a noise ordinance Monday thru Friday 11pm to 7am.  What about the weekend?  This is the worst time for loitering and noise.  It is great to have codes, laws and ordinances, but when it is not enforced on the existing boardwalk and the streets of Carolina Beach, then we have a real problem. 
Why go against every hazard mitigation guideline and build a parallel structure (boardwalk) and non-elevated beach access areas in the dunes between the ocean and inland structures?  Primary, frontal dunes, and the dune trough should be free of any structures.  Dune lines must be not be disturbed!  (CAMA Handbook will support these claims).  Only an environment of ecological growth and a habitat conducive to wildlife should exist.  They state that, “the dune systems are fully recovered and fully vegetated at the existing boardwalk”.  How far is this from the truth?  It takes a minimum of five years before the sea oats are capable of stabilizing the dunes.  Also, the five ramps built instead of walkovers will provide a spillway for flooding, erosion and storm waves during a major hurricane.  Mark my words, the boardwalk business area will be inundated with water, sand and boardwalk debris from the next major hurricane.  It is time for change in November.  Let’s find a Town Council that will be transparent, frugal and ethical to represent Carolina Beach.  In my opinion, the TCB should make decisions and plan their strategies based on what’s right for residents first.
Mark Richard
Carolina Beach, NC

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