P&Z Recommends Approval Of Boardwalk Amusement Rides

P&Z Recommends Approval Of  Boardwalk Amusement Rides

P&Z Recommends Approval Of Boardwalk Amusement Rides Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 16 December 2020 00:12

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH  - Amusement rides are one step closer to returning to the Carolina Beach Boardwalk area in the near future pending approval by the Town of Carolina Beach.

The Planning and Zoning Commission approved  a request submitted last month to bring rides back to the Boardwalk area during their Thursday December 10th, meeting. The Town's Technical Review Committee reviewed a request for permission to bring rides back to the Boardwalk area during their November 16th, meeting. The request from Carolina Beach Land Holdings, LLC, seeks to expand the area available for placement of rides and concession stands from 34,404 square feet to 58,259 sq. ft. (1.34 acres) combined across multiple properties.  

The previous operation was operated by Mergerle's Magic and Hildebrand Rides from 2009 until 2019.

According to Carolina Beach Planning Director Jeremy Hardison the landowner indicated, "He will not be returning, but didn’t say who they had" as a new amusement ride operator.

Following a previous announcement that the rides would not be returning for future seasons due to construction of new mixed-use residential and commercial developments on properties that once hosted the rides, as well as COVID-19, many residents and annual visitors expressed a desire for the Town to explore alternative options to bring the amusements back  to the resort town.

The new proposal request Town Council approval to both extend and expand the original Conditional Use Permit issued for the amusement operations in 2009 including expanding the available area for rides.

The request is for a five year extension from 2021 to 2026 with the rides in place for six months out of the year during the summer and shoulder tourism seasons.

Part of the request includes a proposal to use land owned by the Town at 3 Carolina Beach Avenue South and 101 Cape Fear Blvd; the light blue building that was previously home to a beachwear shop and prior to that, the Sterling Craft Mall.

According to the request submitted to the Town, "With the 2009-2019 success of the first decade+ of amusements, arcades, rides and games at the historic boardwalk of Carolina Beach, the Applicant and Land Owner, is requesting an extension and an expansion of the original conditional use permit originally issued on April 14, 2009, modified in July of 2009 and January 15, 2010. The Conditional Use Permit has brought a family-oriented carnival consisting of a series of large mechanical rides, Kid's rides, fun houses and food stands to the historic Carolina Beach Boardwalk since May of 2009. The applicant is requesting an extension of five years 2021 through 2026. The facilities will remain in place for a period of not to exceed six months per year (The Season) and would reserve the right to return in succeeding years with a similar operation."

Some planning commissioners had questions about food stands associated with the amusement rides competing with restaurants in the Boardwalk area.

Planning Commissioner Wayne Rouse explained, "There are a lot of these small businesses pretty much hanging on by a thread - or will be considering everything they've gone through. A lot of the country is, but I'm focusing locally. A lot of them paying rent, paying the water bill and all the things and through no fault of their own they've been held up a little bit."

Rouse questioned how concession stands serving food could be governed so, "We're not putting any more competition on the current year round businesses" located in full time brick and mortar buildings which have a higher cost of doing business due to lease payments and higher cost-of-business than a trailer serving hotdogs and other selections.

Greg Reynolds, representing the amusement ride applicant, told the Planning Commission they would be sensitive to the concerns of area establishments and later added that in the past the previous amusement rides were an attraction that  generated increased foot traffic to businesses on the Boardwalk.

Matt Murphy, one of the property owners applying for the permit modification, said, "We don't have any specific vendor in mind right now. It could possibly be more than one, but typically it's been one amusement operator that comes in and sets up the whole system."

Murphy said the previous vender, "May have taken a hit during COVID and is probably not available."

Commissioner Rouse said, "I don't have a problem with it. A lot of people in our community, whether we do or not, really want that. We are a tourist destination. A lot of people want these amusements. The rides - I call them down at the Boardwalk. I usually go one night during the summer when it's not busy, ride the Ferris wheel one time and then go have a beer. I don't have young kids. I think the people that do come here, and again we are tourist driven, it is a big draw. I believe the Chamber is behind this which would pretty much cement my view on that. So I don't have a problem with that."

Commissioner Debra Lecompte explained, "If you follow Carolina Beach social media at all, you will see the number one thing that comes up when people say what do you want to see, they will say family oriented things in our community. I think that the rides have been a great contribution to this community for all the years they have been here." The Planning Commission recommended the Town Council approve of the permit modification at their January 12th regular meeting.


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