Council To Consider Seeking Grant For Canal Dr. Property Purchase

Council To Consider Seeking Grant For Canal Dr. Property Purchase Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 19 August 2015 04:00

One Councilman Not In Favor; Mayor Surprised By Proposal


Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Town of Carolina Beach is planning to submit an application for a grant from the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management to purchase land at 719 Canal Drive and combine it with Town property at Oyster Shell Lane to provide access to Myrtle Grove Sound.
The Town Council will discuss the matter at their upcoming August 25th, meeting at 6:PM at Town Hall.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said Tuesday evening he does not support the plan.

The Town already submitted a pre-application in May of this year and were notified by the State they are invited to submit a final application following Town Council approval. According to the pre-application submitted by the Town earlier this year it states, "The site is a 4,792 square foot waterfront lot located 719 Canal Drive at the western intersection of Canal Drive and Oystershell Lane." The lot is approximately 50 feet of Canal Drive frontage and frontage on the Carolina Beach Yacht Basin (Myrtle Grove Sound).

The application states, "It is vacant but has an existing bulkhead and 25 foot floating  dock with water and electricity in place, and 2 boat slips.
The lot is immediately adjacent to the 25 foot Oystershell Lane street right-of-way (ROW) and a Town [sewer] lift station to the north."
The Town would combine the right-of-way of Oystershell Lane with the 719 property creating 75 feet of functional space for parking and public space. The Oystershell Lane CAMA Public Beach Access is approximately 300 feet east  - two blocks - of the site.

Councilman Shuttleworth said Tuesday August 18th, "I do not support it" and, "I Don't see any compelling reason we need another gazebo, deck, kayak  launch, dingy dock, police boat dock or bathrooms and a few parking spaces 2 blocks from one we already have."
Shuttleworth said, "I can't say I would not support if  it was a 100% grant. We talked about access to the sound some time ago but that was for  access on other side of waterway where public access is extremely limited."

The application filed by the Town earlier this year states, "The project goal is to acquire the waterfront property at 719 Canal Drive to increase public access to Myrtle Grove Sound and the beach. The site location is approximately midway along the two mile "Northend" stretch of beach and sound front between downtown Carolina Beach and the Freeman Park 4-wheel drive area. Only two blocks west of the beach and one block south of the Town's Sandpiper Lane public parking, bath and shower facility and public dinghy dock. The site is ideal for additional public facilities" and, "The Town's new mooring field is also very convenient to the site for transient boaters" that dock in at the mooring field in the yacht basin and come ashore.

The application states, "The Canal Drive and Carolina Beach Avenue North corridors receives heavy vehicle traffic from visitors and locals accessing the beach, sound and Freeman Park. During the busy summer months all of the existing public access parking lots fill up on a regular basis and many visitors are either turned away or park illegally along the narrow streets causing congestion and aggravation for residents and other visitors. While new beach parking is important, the Town is emphasizing development of new facilities for access to the sound. At present the only sound access facilities between downtown and the Northend are the new Sandpiper [Lane] dock and a small public beach at the west end of Florida Avenue. The property at 719 Canal is one of the few remaining undeveloped lots along the sound and is now available at a reasonable price."
According to the application, the Town plans to develop the property to include public parking, enlarging the existing boat dock and adding a gazebo on the dock for shade, viewing and congregating. Picnic tables, benches and landscaping will also be added along with appropriate signs. The Town says the existing dock is in good condition and is already served by water and electric services.

Combining 719 Canal Drive with the Town's right-of-way on Oystershell Lane would allow for nine parking spaces with 75 feet of waterfront frontage.

The pre-application filed in May states, "The asking price for the lot is currently $357,000. The owner has indicated through their listing agent that the price is negotiable and negotiations were in process at the time of submittal."

The Town stated in the pre-application that, "Public access to the ocean is a high priority listed in the Town of Carolina Beach's Land Use Plan" and, "Under Key Planning Issues Impacting Carolina Beach, the Town emphasizes a need to pro-actively resolve the inadequacy of public access."
Also, the application states, "The land use plan lists as a "Town Goal" : Enhance and increase public parking and public access facilities" and contains other language that calls for developing comprehensive policies that provide beach and public trust access opportunities along the shoreline of public trust waters and, "Policies shall address access needs and opportunities, include strategies to develop public access, and identify feasible funding options."

The application states the Town's Harbor Management Plan calls for construction of a dock to serve as a means for boat owners to access the mooring field. That plan also calls for other amenities including dinghy storage racks, trash disposal, public rest rooms, showers, laundry facilities and a Harbor Master's Office.

The estimated cost in May when the pre-application was submitted is listed as $310,000 for the property with the Town  paying 50% and the grant paying the rest. The Town would pay their share from the General Fund portion of the budget. The current owner of the property is listed as Grant Lattner of Wilmington, NC. The property was listed in 2007 for $900,000 and has been on and off the market at various times since 2007.
Jerry Haire - Project Manager for the Town - explained on July 22nd, "As you know the Harbor Commission recently discussed and made recommendations on good candidate properties for acquisition for enhancing public beach and water access. 719 Canal was selected for this year’s CAMA Access Grant cycle. To date we have submitted the required pre-application and were recently selected to submit a Final Application in October. The application and commitment for matching funds will of course have to be considered and approved by Town Council prior to submittal."

The schedule is as follows:
• Pre-application submittal May 29th
• Notice to submit final app. July 5th
• Town Council consideration of grant at September 8th regular meeting
• Final Application deadline October 16th, 2015
• Award announcements  Jan. 2016
• Grant agreement/funding available March-April 2016

According to Mike Lopazanski, Policy and Planning Section Chief with the Division of Coastal Management, explained in a letter to the Town earlier this month, "Twenty-two local governments within the 20 coastal counties submitted pre-applications totaling $2.4 million in grant requests. Approximately $900,000 in grant funding is available."

The Island Gazette reported on the grant application in the July 29th, edition. On August 5th Mayor Dan Wilcox wrote to Town Manager Michael Cramer in an email stating, "As we briefly discussed yesterday, the fact that the town is seeking a matching grant to purchase 719 Canal is not something I recall coming to council or being included in your weekly updates. When staff takes time to pursue grants that will ultimately require council approval and/or match funding, I think it is best to run the ideas by council before investing substantial staff time on the application, and definitely before issuing a press release. As I explained to you, as soon as that hit the press I got messages from citizens with questions. I had to tell them I knew nothing about it."

Wilcox explained, "Then today I see on the news that we are seeking to increase our mooring balls. The article included comments from Ed and Randy Simon on behalf of the town. It made it appear as if this was a foregone decision. Again, as soon as it hit the press and facebook, I got messages asking why we needed moorings, an what that decision was based on. Again, I had to say I had no clue because I do not recall this being presented to council by the committee or staff."

He explained, "We need to add committee reports back to the agenda and develop a better method for when council becomes informed/involved before something goes to press. If a committee or staff is working on things of this nature, they need to inform council and seek input from us before sending press releases."

Cramer responded, "I understand your frustration and I have no problem with improving our process regarding recommendation from our committees. We have had information about this subject in the Weekly Updates since April. The reason that Willard did a story on it was because he saw the previous info in the Weekly Updates and wanted more detail. At that point I made sure to send council the detailed information before the article came out. Most of our grants have several application stages, below is the example for the CAMA Grant."

A review of "Weekly Updates" sent to Council in April shows the April 17th update included a short statement reading, "Water Access Project and Grants: Researching potential water access improvement projects for upcoming CAMA, DENR Water Resources grant cycles, as well as other funding sources."

In the May 1st, Weekly Update from Cramer, it states, "Water Access Project and Grants: At their April 22 meeting the Harbor  Commission recommended prioritizing acquisition of 2 lots on Canal Dr. for beach access parking. Researching these and other potential water access improvement projects for upcoming CAMA, DENR Water Resources grant cycles, as well as other funding sources."

The Weekly Update for July 20th stated, "Preparing CAMA Grant Final Application for acquisition of lot on Canal Dr. for sound access, parking and other amenities. Application due in October. Award announcements expected in January 2016. Researching other projects."
The grant pre-application was submitted prior to the May 29th deadline and indicated the list price for the property was $357,000 and stated, "Note the sellers agent has indicated that the price is negotiable and negotiations were in process at the time of submittal" and that preliminary discussions indicated the acquisition price would be in the $320,000 to $330,000 range and then ultimately $310,000 with the Town paying $155,000 and the  grant paying the other 50% of the purchase price for a total of $310,000.


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