By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - Local restaurant owner David Cole of the Dive Restaurant on Lake Park Blvd is preparing to open another establishment oceanfront on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk. Part of his plan for "Hurricane Alley" is a 500 square foot ocean view deck over the existing concrete boardwalk with seating underneath.
Not something the Town would typically consider permitting, but unlike the majority of other Boardwalk properties, the walkway is on private property. The property lines for the building located adjacent to the pool at the Marriott Hotel extend into the majority of the concrete walkway.
On March 23, the Council held a meeting to discuss the issue. The Carolina Beach Town Council was notified earlier this month a new Boardwalk business was planning to build a deck over what has long served as a pedestrian area along the oceanfront.
Town Manager Tim Owens explained to the Council, "The Town of Carolina Beach has been maintaining a section of sidewalk on the boardwalk in front of the Zeko parcel (small flat roof vacant building north of the Marriott) and in front of the Putt-Putt for many years."
Both locations are on the oceanfront on the Boardwalk. The "Zeko parcel" is the single-story building directly adjacent to the pool area of the Marriott Hotel property.
Owens explained, "In addition, the area has been openly used by pedestrians for many years. While both are true, it would appear that these sidewalks are actually located on private property. This has not been a concern up until now."
Owens explained that David Cole - owner of the Dive Restaurant on Lake Park Blvd - "Is proposing to build a deck for patrons at a new restaurant that he is opening in the Zeko building. The new deck will limit the amount of room for pedestrians in the area. While we are trying to mitigate the amount of space the deck takes up by requesting that a portion of the deck be cantilevered, there will still be minimal clearance in this area. The hope is that we can retain enough clearance that would allow a pick-up truck to continue to drive down the remaining sidewalk in this area."
Owens explained, "I have requested that Surveyor Bob Jones review the surveyors and see if there are other factors here that we do not know about such as actual location of the Carolina Beach Building Line location or an easement. If there is nothing that Mr. Jones can find to indicate that the sidewalk is public property, there are limited options".
Owens said those options are to hire an attorney to do a title search on the property or hire an attorney to condemn the property and pay for the cost of the property as deemed appropriate by the court system. The later of the two options is called eminent domain where the Town would take the property for a public purpose and pay the owner fair market value.
Owens explained, "If the Council does not want to condemn a right-of-way easement or look further into the actual ownership of the property, the Town will have to move forward with the approval of a CAMA permit, building permit and to allow for construction."
On March 23, Councilman Lonnie Lashley asked why the issue was before the Council.
Town Manager Tim Owens said it was to give the Council the option to approve of the proposal or condemn the portion of the walkway privately owned and preserve that area for pedestrian access.
The Town was advised by an attorney they had options including condemning the walkway or other options including claiming "prescriptive use" claiming it's served a public purpose for many years and should continue.
Cole said it’s not his intention to block public access on the Boardwalk in front of his business because that's counter to operating a successful restaurant.
Owens said the Town at least wanted to maintain enough room for a vehicle to pass in front of the building.
Cole altered his design to position wooden support posts closer to the building leaving more room for access along the concrete walkway.
Cole wanted to install a roof top deck, but that would require a variance from state coastal development regulations which is a more complicated process.
Council member Sarah Friede said she would appreciate if the owner would grant the Town an easement should the use of the building ever change.
Owens said the Town could move forward and permit the deck, look at the cost of widening the walkway and requesting an easement from the owners.
Shuttleworth said he agreed with getting an easement if, "They ever quit using it" as a restaurant with outdoor seating.
The Council took no action and the Town will issue permits for construction of the deck and outdoor seating.
The attorney repeated that the Town may have rights to the public area even though it’s deeded as private property because it's long been used for public access.
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