Island Greenway Fence Upsets Some Carolina Beach Residents

Island Greenway Fence Upsets Some Carolina Beach Residents Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 29 October 2014 04:00

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH  - Area residents are upset over a plan to install a chain link fence topped with barbwire along a planned bike and pedestrian path to run from the area of Mike Chappel Park on Dow Road south to Alabama Avenue.
Residents living in the Carolina Sands neighborhood are upset because the path was previously planned to follow a line west of a retention pond behind their neighborhood. Recently they learned a map showed the path running east of that retention pond directly behind homes in their subdivision.
Town officials have said the path will be located on land owned by the U.S. Army as a buffer zone for the Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point (MOTSU). The terminal is the largest ammunition depot on the East Coast. Operations are located on the other side of the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County and the "buffer zone" occupies a large portion of Pleasure Island encompassing land in both Carolina Beach and Kure Beach on the riverside of the Island.
Since the Army owns the land, the Town has to meet their requirement to install a fence.
Council member Leann Pierce explained in an email to several residents earlier this week, "To my knowledge, the bike path was approved in 2011 and we have received a grant of approximately $700,000 to implement that section of the greenway. I walked the proposed pathway yesterday with Councilman Gary Doetsch and Jerry Harie from Town Hall. We have made no decision to change the bike path since I took office in January. We have had some communications from MOTSU concerning people driving down the paths, dumping trash on their property, and fishing/feeding animals in the retention pond. It was highly suggested to us that these activities be stopped. The fence you saw erected a few weeks ago is standard MOTSU regulation fencing."
A fence was erected by the Town recently on land behind the Seagrove subdivision to stop people from dumping trash on MOTSU land. It is the same style fence that would be installed along the Greenway path. (See photo on page 1-A).
Pierce explained, "Please understand, we have to work with the Army on many levels. Our waste treatment facility, many of our wells and Mike Chappell Park are all located on MOTSU property. Our island is surrounded by government property. We have to work with the Army regarding these properties as well as our beach renourishment and inlet dredging. It is a delicate and essential relationship we have with them. All that being said, I don't like the fence either. I was hoping to negotiate a less offensive looking fence, more green space and tree lines. We have not had the opportunity to do that yet. Please understand, it is their property. If they should so choose, they can erect that exact fence along the entire border of their property for security. We have had to install a similar fence around our waste treatment facility."
She explained, "At this point, Council does not know what the military will permit us to do or what conditions they will impose on us. I can only promise you that we will do our best to negotiate with MOTSU and we will have public meetings to inform the public on what we have learned."
Carolina Sands resident Virginia Holman wrote to Council last week stating, "I am deeply dismayed by the proposed route of the bike path through the back of Carolina Sands. This route negatively impacts, to a large degree, the quality of life of my neighbors. It lowers their property values, and increases risks to personal property and safety."
Holman explained, "In addition, the fence that is proposed is proving problematic for many of the neighbors in it's prison-like appearance. This change to the bike path route was not vetted nor announced. With judicious planning, we can have a bike path that serves both our residents and our tourists. However, we cannot sacrifice the safety of our residents for this ill thought out, path into many back yards. Who will patrol this path and how? Will large scale lighting also be mandated, thus further intruding on neighborhood quality of life? It is absolutely appalling to sacrifice the property and safety of our neighbors homes to this path. Please reroute this for the safety and integrity of our community. First do no harm. This route is harmful."
Jeannie Arnold, also a resident of Carolina Sands, explained last week, "It has come to my attention that the town of Carolina Beach plans to construct a bike path along the property lines of homes on Carolina Sands Drive. The original 2011 plan was to run the path on the other side of the pond and that plan was shared with the public. The current plan includes a prison style fence with barbed wire at the top separating the path from the pond. All trees and shrubs planted by property owners for privacy will be removed and the ground on both sides of the path will be sand only. There will be no security lighting or night security. The fence does not make the path more secure because there are ways to get around it."
She explained, "The homes along this path will be made vulnerable because of the short distance between the path and their back doors. The fence construction will lower property values in Carolina Sands and the neighborhood behind Carolina Sands. When I was shopping for property five years ago, I chose Carolina Sands because I love feeling close to nature and having the opportunity to observe animal and plant life in this area. I would not have chosen to buy here if I had seen a 10 foot prison style fence behind my neighborhood."
Arnold explained in an email to Council member Pierce, "If you want to decrease the population in Carolina Beach, this is a great way to do it. I would strongly encourage you to make sure environmental impact studies are performed and make sure all residents are aware of what the city is planning before construction begins. There must be a better way to get a bike path than to make unsafe neighborhoods."
Mayor Dan Wilcox responded to residents earlier this week stating, "I have received several emails and calls from citizens concerned about the bike path project... As I stated in an earlier email, the town has not proposed any changes or held any meetings regarding this project. Comments from the Army regarding shifting of the bike path back along the property lines (east side of pond) are just recently filtering their way to us, as they are to you. What I can assure you is that once we have some factual information we will hold a public meeting to review project options. At that time, there will be ample opportunity for comment and discussion. I know you would like more information, but we can’t give you want we don’t have."
Wilcox explained, "Our town relies on the use of Army property for other services critical to our community, such as well sites, drainage ponds and our waste water treatment plant. So, while the Army has every right to make their own decisions about their own land, any opportunity we might have for negotiations on this particular project needs to be handled carefully and with all factors and consequences in mind. I would urge you to allow time for us to obtain something more substantial from the Army, and then allow staff and Council to work with that information to determine our options. Once that is done, we will bring those options back to you for in-depth discussion. Given they just recently performed their land surveys, and are likely reviewing that information as it relates to project parameters, I expect it could be a few weeks or longer before we receive any additional or substantive information. Please be patient. No one on Council or staff is driving these potential changes and no decisions will be made prior to a public meeting."
There was some discussion about relocating the path in June of 2013. Councilman Steve Shuttleworth met with Col. Rupkalvis of MOTSU regarding the Island Greenway trail location. Shuttleworth informed Council at the time that, "The Town's request to locate a section of the trail on the west side of one of the detention ponds adjacent to Carolina Sands" was addressed during that meeting.
He explained in an email to Council that, "The Colonel will not agree to that location. He requires that if we want the trail it needs to be located on the eastern side of the detention pond. He will support moving it as far west as possible within the fire break. This will allow some additional buffer between Carolina Sands neighbors and the trail. His specific reasons for denial included the apparent constant trespassing by residents into the buffer area around the pond. Our residents have been repeatedly seen using the detention pond for recreational purposes, four wheeling, fishing and alligator trapping!"
Mayor Wilcox said the Town will meet with MOTSU officials on Thursday of this week. After that meeting the Town will work to set up a meeting with residents to update them on the project and hear their feedback.

A portion of the proposed path running behind Carolina Sands Drive and the Seagrove Subdivisions.


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