Residents Attend "Listening Session" For Future Of Snow's Cut Land

Residents Attend "Listening Session" For Future Of Snow's Cut Land Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 01 October 2014 04:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - Residents attended a "listening session" held by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Thursday night September 30th, at the American Legion in Carolina Beach. The purpose of the meeting was to present information to residents living along Snow's Cut about the Corp's future plans for land located on either side of the banks of Snow's Cut; the Intracoastal Waterway.
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) informed the Town of Carolina Beach earlier this year it is planning to obtain a change of status for land they own along Snow's Cut - the Intracoastal Waterway - in Carolina Beach. The land runs from Snow's Cut Bridge east between Snow's Cut and homes located on Spencer Farlow Drive down to the North Carolina Wildlife Boat Ramp on Annie Drive.
The change in status could bring commercial activity to a largely undeveloped area of the waterway right behind residential homes.
Elected leaders and adjacent property owners expressed concerns about relocating various industrial activities in a residential area. The Corp of Engineers already utilizes a portion of the property along Snow's Cut to support dredging operations. That area is contained within a fence with barbed wire on top and a gate. There is a dock for dredge vessels. The entrance to that area is located on Annie Drive just before the North Carolina Wildlife Boat Access Ramp.
The Snow’s Cut property was identified as the top candidate for relocating the Corp of Engineer's operations from land they use near the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. The property is zoned R-1 which allows for single and two family development. The proposed use could best be described as light industrial. Local zoning regulations do not apply on Federal property/projects; however the ACOE does have criteria for how their properties are developed. The Snow's Cut walking and bike trail was installed some years ago by the Town of Carolina Beach and runs from the end of Bridge Barrier Road east through the wooded area between homes on Spencer Farlow Drive and the Snow's Cut waterway. The trail ends at the Wildlife Boat Ramp on Annie Drive. There are approximately a dozen residential properties that would see a new fence erected. Currently four properties are adjacent to the existing fence.
The Army informed the Town earlier this year the land would relocate the Snow's Cut Walking and Bike Path and bring the installation of a fenced topped with barbed wire running behind residential homes. Currently, the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) maintains a repair yard and survey offices located on Eagle Island adjacent to the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. Due to flooding, maintenance issues, and future design modifications associated with the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, the Eagle Island ACOE location is expected to be abandoned in the next 5 to 20 years, depending on their budgets. Those operations could be moved to the land along Snow's Cut.
Town Manager Michael Cramer explained to Council members last month, "This week I discussed the Army Corp of Engineers plans for their Snow’s Cut property with ACOE representatives.  During this discussion I was told that the plans for the property have been scaled back."
Cramer explained, "ACOE will move a 3-10 man survey office to the Snow’s Cut area within the next 6-18 months. This move will include the placement of a small office building and survey boats on trailers on the property currently contained within their security fence.  This will entail enhancements to the existing dock area and fence, as well as installing small boat lifts adjacent to the dock for the survey boats. All improvements will be located within the existing maintenance compound area. This area is currently designated for operational purposes under the current and future ACOE Master plan and needs no additional approvals."
He explained, "The ACOE will be moving the existing fence between the residential property owners and the ACOE property 4 to 8 feet further inside their property.  The fence will include the same fencing material and security features that are established on the existing fence.  To accommodate their security needs trees between the property line and 24 to 30 feet within the ACOE property will be removed."
Cramer explained the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) will soon request an amendment to their ACOE Master Plan that will adjust the recreational designation of the remainder of their property on Carolina Beach to “Operational”. This action will not change the established recreational use of the property under the Town of Carolina Beach’s sublease with New Hanover County which has a lease with the ACOE for use of the land.
He explained, "The Town will not be required to move the existing bike path unless we request to pave the surface.  At this time the town has no plans to pave the surface. No additional force protection fence will be placed between the residential property owners and the ACOE Property. Town of Carolina Beach must better manage the property that we sublease from New Hanover County and the ACOE."
Cramer explained "Better management of the property"  would include:
• Enforce “NO Tree Removal or Grass Cutting” on the ACOE property, except within the area of the bike path.  The property is intended as a natural buffer and should not be denuded.  Trees could be replanted in areas previously denuded.
• Addition of split rail fencing and signage next to the water to delineate areas that the public should not enter.  Significant erosion is taking place, due to people walking down the banks to fish.
• Maintain existing split rail fence on property line. Areas of the fence delineating the property line have been removed by adjacent property owners and must be replaced.
At the start of the September 30th, "listening session", officials with the Army Corp of Engineers gave a brief description of the meeting process and then directed the public to meet with representatives in groups to discuss various aspects of updating their Master Plan and potential for future uses of the land.
Several residents commented, "This is not what I expected" referring to the format of the meeting. Some had hoped for a more structured meeting rather than breaking into groups circulating around the room.
The message of the day was that no funding has been approved for relocating major operations to the land. At this time the ACOE is updating their Master Plan that was last updated in 1994. That will reclassify areas of land along both sides of Snow's Cut with some areas labeled as environmentally sensitive and others reclassified to "Operational" laying the framework to utilize the undeveloped land in other ways sometime in the future.
One official continued to emphasize there is currently no funding for the major activity on the land. An environmental study will be conducted prior to reclassifying land in the area.

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