- Published on Wednesday, 05 June 2013 23:41
- Written by Super User
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - Earlier this year the Town of Carolina Beach requested $500,000 from New Hanover County to help fund a park improvement project at the downtown Boardwalk on the oceanfront.
On May 24th, County Manager Chris Coudriet sent an "unsolicited memo" to the County Board of Commissioners offering his opinion the funding request should not be granted since the funds were needed for another park project in the northern area of the county. Since Coudriet issued his memo in late May, the Carolina Beach Town Council has been frustrated and are now making another attempt to request the funding under a different funding scenario.
On Monday June 3, Carolina Beach Mayor Bob Lewis wrote in a letter to the County Board of Commissioners, "As you know, Carolina Beach requested a grant from New Hanover County to assist the Town expand the Carolina Beach Boardwalk Park. The expansion and renovation of the existing boardwalk is a $2 million undertaking. The Town has secured grants, with Town match, but need County support to see it through. The uniqueness of our request is there is a more than a 100% payback to the County."
Lewis explained, "New Hanover County is known for its quality of life! We at Carolina Beach understand that. We held over 43 events last year that generated entertainment, camaraderie, jobs, benefits to worthy non-profits, and yes sales tax. This formula for benefit with cost provision is the underpinning of our request to you."
He explained, " How can we improve leisure (quality of life), and entertainment, while generating commerce that all of our municipalities, state and federal governments benefit. This proposal reveals that. How does it work? Carolina Beach is very close to securing at least one additional major hotel on the island. The Boardwalk serves to secure that effort while creating a walking/bicycling loop similar to the one at Wrightsville Beach."
Lewis explained, "The “new” Boardwalk will have a definite family theme, which has been the focus over the past ten years. Conservative estimates utilized on the attached spreadsheet provide for revenue generated from a $14 million hotel and associated direct and indirect sales tax. Sales projections for the new hotel ($ 4 million) are conservative. Additional sales tax estimates of $2 million are modest as well."
Lewis explained that room occupancy taxes collected from hotels, motels and short term vacation rentals would generate an estimated $240,000 a year of which $48,000 would directly benefit New Hanover County.
He explained the economic benefits to the state, county and the Town will come from additional commerce and the indirect benefits will be "numerous" but have yet to be quantified.
Lewis wrote, "What we are proposing is that the County loan Carolina Beach $500,000. The Town would pay interest only at your investment interest rate for three years so that it does not cost the County. The incremental revenue generated from this effort
will pay the loan off and then the good news, the revenue continues for everyone. What if it doesn’t happen? More good news for the County; the Town agrees to pay the County back. We are asking for a 7 year loan in this event but quite frankly we don’t expect it to be necessary but it does protect the County."
He explained, "So, the County makes a loan with high return to the Town. It would be secured by inter-local agreement with guaranteed pay back if results are not produced. The County creates a loan and an offsetting receivable on its books. County fund balance total does not change but more is restricted until you receive the pay back. No risk for the county just a balance sheet reclassification if your glass is half empty. If half-full, the County will have helped to create an economic engine with family focus. We are appreciative of the consideration. Let’s make this happen."
Mayor Lewis outlined various improvements that could be made to the Boardwalk area during his "State of Town" address earlier this year.
Lewis said on Tuesday May 28, the Town has requested $500,000 for park-oriented improvements at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk as part of a larger plan to make improvements in the area including replacing the aging wooden boardwalk. Specifically, funding for a unique Children's Park at the base of the wooden boardwalk on the landside along the public walkway.
Lewis said the plan is create a unique venue from others in the county and options include building a children's splash park themed with music and special lighting, an Aquatic Themed Children's Playground or a year-round historic looking "Carrousel and or Ferris Wheel".
Lewis explained, "All of these options would provide free access to all New Hanover County residents. The park would be focused on families and the Town of Carolina Beach would take care of all the annual management and maintenance of the park out of our own town budget saving the County any annual costs normally associated with managing and maintaining a park."
On May 24, County Manager Chris Coudriet wrote a memo to the Board of Commissioners which led to the Town's June 3, proposal.
Coudriet's letter to the Board explained the County already had a plan ready to bring to the Board of Commissioners at their June 3, meeting to utilize the funds requested by Carolina Beach. That plan is for development of the Northern Regional Park or "Castle Hayne Park".
Coudriet explained the Town requested $500,000 be redirected using various methods from a 2006 Parks and Greenspace Bond.
He explained a previous request from the Town in 2012 was denied, "at that time because of identified park development needs in the unincorporated county which exceeded available bond proceeds."
Coudriet said Mayor Lewis' request earlier this year proposed the county redirect $500,000 of park bonds to the Town and that the funds be replenished at some future date with liquidated funds when county assets are sold in the future. He explained the same funds were already planned by county staff for the Castle Hayne Park.
Coudriet said the county planned to combine the funds with a state parks grant but since they were informed they did not receive that grant, "these bonds are critical to the success of the Northern Regional Park."
Coudriet listed numerous reasons why he opposed the Town's request for bond funds. He explained the $500,000 is needed to complete the Castle Hayne Park and waiting for county assets (property) to be sold would delay that project.
Coudriet explained, "The Carolina Beach Boardwalk Project, unlike the Northern Regional Park, is only in its conceptual stage. The Northern Regional Park is already an existing park and in use. The Phase 1 expansion funding model has already been finalized using parks bond funds and a previously approved grant.
Coudriet explained, "The debt management policy, which was adopted by the Board on May 6, 2013, provides that proceeds from the sale of fixed assets be used to fund items on the county's capital improvement list."
He explained, "It appears that the Carolina Beach Boardwalk will serve as an amenity to existing local attractions. The Northern Regional Park will serve as a destination to those competing in a wide range of athletic activities which will have a direct economic impact on the county" and, "The Northern Regional Park will provide the county with much needed field capacity to support local athletic organizations."
Coudriet explained, "For the reasons stated above, I respectfully request that you not proceed with the Town of Carolina Beach's request and instead fully consider the county staff plan at the June 3, 2013 meeting."
The item Coudriet planned to present to the Board at their June 3, meeting was postponed on Monday until a meeting in July.
Mayor Lewis explained in late May, "This is a strategic project which has a return on investment for all the taxpayers of New Hanover County. Carolina Beach property owners contribute around 8% of the property taxes in New Hanover County annually and like any other area of the county we appreciate all the services and value that the County provides to us as residents.
However, being designated only $200,000.00 from the parks bond issue represents less than .05% of the total aggregated funds raised from the parks bond and the other $34.8 million has been invested elsewhere. When you speak of the Southern part of New Hanover County most residents on Carolina Beach and some of those south of Monkey Junction feel as though they have little voice or representation at the County level. If
you have not noticed this area of the County is starting to experience another growth spurt and the new families and individuals who move into our area are looking to New Hanover County to provide them the same benefit as other areas of the county as it relates to parks for recreation."
Lewis explained, "My thought was to make this a Carolina Beach and New Hanover County Park and name it as such. The project goal is to provide all county residents with an unique beachfront experience."
The Town's original request for funding focuses on a 2006 voter approved $35.5 million parks and green space bond. The County and the City of Wilmington got the largest shares of that funding while the three beach Towns each received $200,000.
Since that time New Hanover County has approved $500,000 for an oceanfront park in neighboring Kure Beach.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said Tuesday May 26, "We will continue to make the case to the County Board of Commissioners and I encourage citizens to call each Commissioner and ask why they are not willing to help
Carolina Beach with an important economic development that will help further improve the economy and send more tax dollars to the County."
He said, "It would be unfortunate if the County turned a cold shoulder to Carolina Beach. We need this help to continue revitalization efforts in the downtown area."
Shuttleworth said the County has an ample reserve fund that could be used to fund the request if not from the parks bond funding.
Lewis explained, "We have buy-in from the state to help with grants to support the wooden boardwalk expansion and re-construction of the current deteriorated boardwalk. So the Historic Carolina Beach Boardwalk will be extended an additional 2,000 ft and provide visitors and County residents with a wide promenade, covered seating areas and various new access ramps for individuals with disabilities.
I have the town matching funds for the construction work to match state grants. I have the new oceanfront hotel developer also committing some funds to tie in their new property to the Boardwalk expansion. All we need now is a little love from our local County Commissioners."
He hopes the Town can begin work in September and will continue efforts to secure state grant funding as well as funding from the County.