Keep it Green

By / Letters to the Editor / Wednesday, 05 November 2014 05:00

Dear Editor,
Carolina Beach needs a bike path to connect the southern part of our community to the rest of town, and vice versa.   I am for the Island Greenway.   However, somehow the planning for this project took an unfortunate turn last year that was not announced to the public.
In just a few months this $3/4 million bike path is scheduled to be built next to a prison-style fence – and it will be called a “Greenway”.   On the other side of the path from the barbed wire fence will likely be privacy fences constructed by residents with properties within 10’ of the path.   Is this a “Greenway”? Do people want to travel next to an offensive structure such as this?   The path was also sold to the public as being located well away from residents’ property.  How could this have happened and how could we commit our tax dollars to such a project?
It was not supposed to happen. The Island Greenway has been years in the making and received substantial public input resulting in the “Comprehensive Greenway Plan”.   This plan was assembled by  planners and engineers  connected to the Wilmington-Metropolitan Area Urban Planning Organization or WMPO.   The WMPO is a public entity consisting of a staff and a board of directors which include elected officials from throughout the Cape Fear region.    Our county and town taxes help pay the staff’s salaries.    An early draft of this plan had the path bordering residential property.  Due to public input from Carolina Beach residents, the path was moved to a location on the far side of a scenic pond, over 100 yards to the west.    This is where the path can be found in the final “Comprehensive Greenway Plan”.     Nowhere in this 162 page plan is there mention of a prison-style fence being constructed along the entire length of the path.
At some point in 2013 the plan went horribly astray and mutated into what it is now.    The mutated plan was accepted by our former town council in the fall of last year without any announcement to the public of the substantial alterations. After voting to pursue the grant, the town’s grant application was submitted to the WMPO. Did the WMPO deny the grant based on its deviation from the former plan? No. Did the WMPO demand that the town open the process to the public view and receive public comment? No.    The WMPO voted to fund the project with no regard as to how the plan would perceived by the public.
Mike Kozlosky, the WMPO Executive Director, attempted to justify these radical changes by stating that the expensive and long awaited Comprehensive Greenway Plan did not contain “all design details”. The addition of a barbed wire fence and the changing of the actual location of the path are considered by the WMPO as mere “details”.   Where was the opportunity for public input after these profound changes were made? These changes were far too substantial to brush off as “design details”.   What is the point of a public input period if the plan can be grossly and profoundly altered after the public comment period is over?   According to the WMPO’s Public Involvement Policy, “citizens should have the opportunity to be involved in all stages of the transportation planning process” (pg. 2).  The WMPO is to “maintain public involvement from the early stages of the planning process through detailed project development” (pg. 3).   The WMPO must provide “time for public review and comment at key decision points (pg. 4).   This policy document can be found at:  http://www.wmpo.org/PDF/2009-09_WMPO_Policy_PublicInvolvement.pdf 
The bike path is planned to be built within the Army’s MOTSU (Sunny Point) Buffer Zone.  The town’s stance on this issue is that the town is at the mercy of Sunny Point and that Sunny Point is insisting upon the fence and will only permit the path right next to residents’ property.   If this is the case, why did the path appear in a far more scenic location in the formal plan that received substantial public input? Was Sunny Point ever consulted before the placement of the path was put into the formal plan?  The town fully recognized that MOTSU would have to be asked where the path could go and what requirements must be met (ie: fence). It appears that only after the path location was released to the public did the town seek authorization from Sunny Point.  
This is not just an issue for bikers and pedestrians that were looking forward to a true Greenway, not a path squeezed between a barbed wire fence and people’s backyards. This is not just an issue for residents living next to the proposed bike path. This is also an issue for anyone who considers spending $3/4 million on a poorly planned project a lousy investment in the future of our community.   It is also an issue for property owners:  residents and realtors that live on the island are very concerned over the negative impacts on property values that could derive from this long and ominous fence.
The planning for this project is clearly flawed. Citizen involvement is essential in order to maintain the public’s trust of government institutions. If you are concerned about this issue, come to the next town council meeting on November 10th and to a public forum on this issue on November 18. The Island Greenway could be a wonderful addition to our community.   Let’s build this project right - by planning it together.
Richard Cecelski,
Carolina Beach, NC
Notes: The Island Greenway plan can be found at the following web site: http://www.wmpo.org/plans.html
Go down page to “Bicycle and Pedestrian Plans”.    Find “Wilmington New Hanover County Comprehensive Greenway Plan”.   The plan is contained within 3 documents.   The main document is entitled “Final Plan Draft”.    Nowhere in this document is a mention of a barbed wire security fence.  A map of the Island Greenway appears on page 72 of this document.  
This map shows the bike path on the west side of the stormwater pond behind Carolina Sands.   In addition, the “Plan Maps” pdf document has multiple maps of the Island Greenway which also show the bike path on the west side of the stormwater pond behind Carolina Sands.

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Super User

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Carolina Beach North Carolina

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