CRC Approves Boardwalk Extension For Carolina Beach

CRC Approves Boardwalk Extension For Carolina Beach Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 18 November 2015 05:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) approved a variance requested by the Town of Carolina Beach on Tuesday November 17th, for relief from coastal development regulations to construct an 875' foot northern extension of their existing 757' foot long oceanfront wooden boardwalk in the Central Business District.
The CRC consists of 13 members appointed by the Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate President Pro Tempore. Eleven of the 13 members must have experience in a particular area of expertise, including land development, coastal engineering, marine science, coastal-related business, local government, coastal agriculture, commercial fishing, coastal forestry, sports fishing, and wildlife.
The Town withdrew their previous request in October 2014 when it became apparent the CRC Commission was not favorable to approving the variance during their October 22nd meeting Wilmington.
A project to replace the existing wooden walkway along the oceanfront was completed earlier this year with a grand opening ceremony held March 31st.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth has championed the project for many months. He explained Tuesday night, "It will be a big boom for the Town" and, "We had an overwhelming number of people supporting the project including boat captains, hotel owners, numerous residents, business owners and many other groups" that support ADA access to the beach.
He said, "The Town owns the property and has the power to put in highways and parks on it."
Shuttleworth said he wasn't sure when construction would begin. He said, "If it was up to me we would begin in 30 to 45 days and finished by the 1st of May" but he said the Town still has to wait for the official signed variance from the Coastal Resources Commission could take a few weeks.
He said the project was bid in two phases. The first being replacement of the older Boardwalk. The second phase was the extension. He said since the extension was downsized from 16' feet wide to 10' feet, it reduced the overall area of walkway by around 37%. He said that change plus including additional items such as gates and security for private beach accesses that will be connected to the extension could change the overall cost of the project.
He said the Town will likely have to take more bids on the project before moving forward.
Renee Lewis, speaking for the Averette family which opposes the project and owns a residential home in the area of the extension, explained Tuesday night following the meeting, "Today was the third time the Town of Carolina Beach applied for the variance. The first time is was denied in part. The second time it was withdrawn after realizing it would be denied. Then today, because of a high priced attorney who consistently spoke mistruths, the variance was approved."
Lewis explained, "Mr. Wright, the attorney hired by the Town to win the variance approval at any cost, boldly stated that the homeowners association of the Cabana had not opposed the project when in fact a letter was sent in from the President of the Board of Directors, Greg Mears, stating the HOA opposed the project. Mr. Wright also turned his request into a personal attack against Mr. Averette and falsely stated he was the single property owner against the project."
Lewis explained, "The Averette family is researching their options for any further action". She added, "We were not allowed to speak but the attorney and the chairman talked openly."
History of the process:
In late February 2014, the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) approved the majority of a variance requested by the Town of Carolina Beach to renovate their existing oceanfront wooden Boardwalk originally built in 1989. The CRC voted to approve the renovation of the existing boardwalk to include doubling the width of the boardwalk lane from 8 Ft. to 16 Ft., renovating the landscaped coves, adding wind sails for shading, benches, seating areas, swings, improvements to the sound stage gazebo including a new roof over the sound stage, and improved beach access points.
The project cost was estimated at approximately $1,603,000 part of which will be funded through a $250,000 Water Resources grant from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources that requires a $250,000 match from the Town and a $603,000 CAMA grant from the State Division of Coastal Management. Last summer the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved a grant to the town of $500,000 towards the project.
The project replaces the existing wooden boardwalk within a setback area governed by coastal development regulations. Part of the project will extend the existing boardwalk along the beachfront 875' feet north to Pelican Lane and the Town was set to obtain a variance from the rules governing development in that area from the Coastal Resources Commission at their July 30th,  2014 meeting. That request was later moved to the CRC's October 22nd, 2014 meeting.
The Town had to prove that strict application of the rules created a hardship for the project.
The Town applied for a CAMA Minor Permit in May of 2014 to extend the Boardwalk 875' feet north from Harper Avenue to Pelican Lane. That permit was denied on June 2, 2014. The design proposed in that permit was identical to that approved for the new southern section of the Boardwalk by the CRC in February at 16' wide with three new 10' wide public accesses, three rebuilt existing private accesses, and five ninety-six square foot bump outs for benches and swings. A lattice trellis was proposed at the Pelican Lane access.
The proposed area for the extension is located in the Town's Central Business District (CBD). There are a total of five property owners adjacent to the proposed extension. There are three hotels, a 76-unit condo complex and a two story single-family residence.
The Town filed their variance request for the extension with the CRC 2014 and claimed the extension, "Creates a unique opportunity for the general public without other means of access to view and access the ocean and dune ecosystem from a variety of locations. With in increased demand for access to the beach and ocean from elderly and handicapped individuals, the northern extension will allow elderly and handicapped individuals convenient beach access as well as the ability to view the dune ecosystem. An undue hardship to the public would be created from strict application of the development rules, standards, or orders issued by the Commission. Specifically, handicapped individuals would be denied a convenient and safe means of accessing the beach and/or viewing the ocean and dune ecosystem. Furthermore, general public's access to the ocean and view the dune ecosystem would be impaired. A lack of safe access, as provided by the proposed Boardwalk could result in damage to the dune ecosystems by those creating their own means of access to the beach."
During the October 22, 2014 meeting of the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission (CRC), the Town of Carolina Beach withdrew their request for a variance to construct the extension to the existing boardwalk.
At that time Mayor Dan Wilcox said the Town withdrew its request due to questions posed by the Coastal Resources Commission during their review of the request. It became apparent after the CRC voted on the required findings of fact the variance request would likely not be approved. The CRC board asked the Town if they would like to withdraw the request because if it were turned down the Town could not come back at a later date.
The questions covered a range of topics including vegetation, policing the area, benefit of parallel structures along the oceanfront and other topics.
Wilcox said the October 2014, meeting at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Wilmington was well attended by residents including those opposed to the project.

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