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Carolina Beach Receives Extension From U.S. Army For Operations Yard

The garage at the Town of Carolina Beach Operations Yard on Dow Road. The Town recently received another extension until September to move dumpsters and the garage operation from the property leased from the U.S. Army.

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Town of Carolina Beach recently requested another extension from the U.S. Army to continue various operations until September of this year on land leased since the early 1970's.
The Town was notified in April of last year they were in violation of their 1972 lease agreement with the U.S. Army for land off of Dow Road. The "buffer zone" is land owned by the U.S. Army for the Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point (MOTSU) across the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County. The port deals in ammunition and the buffer zone serves as a "blast zone" in the event of an incident. The zone covers the largest area of land west of Dow Road in Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Fort Fisher.
The property housed the Town's Operations Department including public works, public utilities, storm water department and the Town's garage. Additionally, it was home to a greenhouse and various office and storage areas.
The 1972 lease only permitted a wastewater treatment plant, a storage building and related uses. To date the green house and an office trailer have been removed. The Town worked to restore other areas of the site and comply with the original lease. One of the more complicated issues is where to relocate dumpsters used to hold trash collected from public trashcans throughout Town and along the beach front as well as debris picked up from the side of the road.
The Army originally demanded the Town comply by the end of 2012 and granted an extension until June 2013 to continue using dumpsters on site and a garage to maintain Town vehicles.
The Town searched for alternate locations for both the dumpsters and garage for a number of months. They ultimately approved a permit to locate both on property they own in a residential district behind the Federal Point Shopping Center. That would have called for using a small portion of a nearly 10-acre tract of land for trash compactors and a garage building.
The Planning Commission voted against the proposal citing concerns from adjacent property owners regarding wetlands, odor, noise and impact on property values.
The Council heard those concerns and approved their own conditional use permit at their March 12, meeting. The residents subsequently filed an appeal to that decision in New Hanover County Superior Court. That case is still pending.
Lewis said, "We think we can win the action" in the homeowners' appeal to the permit, "but don't want to spend taxpayer dollars and then move before an injunction." He said it's best to look at other options and since the decision to grant the CUP permit, the Town has been negotiating with a property owner to lease land located off Dow Road adjacent to an existing commercial storage facility in the Industrial Zone.
Lewis said the Town has been in negotiations with Jim Conlon, the owner of property at 110 Dow Road to pay an annual lease.
He said that land already has utilities and power and current negotiations are to lease the land for a period of five years with future lease options.
On Tuesday April 30, Mayor Bob Lewis said the Army Corp of Engineers granted their request for another extension until September 15, of this year but said there would be no further extensions and the Town must complete an environmental assessment of the property.
Lewis said the extension was needed because there was not enough time to meet the June deadline and find an alternate location for the garage, build that facility and installing the new trash compactors.
Lewis said the Council will consider the lease at their May 14th, meeting and are awaiting an analysis of the cost of continuing to operate their own Town garage for vehicle and equipment maintenance or to "outsource" those services to area automotive shops for repairs, oil changes, tires and tire rotations and other similar services.
The only other alternative to outsourcing those services is to build a garage on the Town-owned land challenged by area homeowners, rent a facility or to purchase land somewhere else to build anew.
Lewis said the environmental assessment required by the Army Corp of Engineers will require soil sampling at areas such as an undercarriage wash rack area, trash storage area - including an area for runoff from refuse - the maintenance and storage building, storage shed areas and areas
where petroleum was previously stored.  That included fueling vehicles and equipment and storing used oil for recycling and disposal.
The Town is contracting with Catlin Engineers and Scientists to conduct the environmental review.
Lewis said he was not sure of the cost if any action had to be taken to remove contaminated soil and replace with clean fill dirt to return the site to the condition desired by the Army.
Shuttleworth said it's important to note the problem facing the Town with coming into compliance with the 1972 lease was brought on by the actions of previous administrations and they are now having to take steps to come into compliance and rectify the situation before that lease comes up for renewal in the near future.
He said decades went by while the Town used the property in a way that wasn't permitted by the Army and now they are faced with ramifications of the actions of previous administrations and the tremendous cost to the taxpayers.
Since last year the Town has paid $236,756.29 to come into compliance with the lease.
$96,569.42 of that cost was for removing debris and vegetation. Operations Director Brian Stanberry said, "All of the construction projects over the last 30 years. Any type of debris went back there so you had a big massive pile that had sprawled out through the whole site."
Shuttleworth said the price tag is even larger. He said, "Almost a third of a million dollars, $340,000 to clean up this property and we're not done yet."