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Carolina Beach Council Working To Resolve Military Land Lease Issues

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Town of Carolina Beach "Operations Yard" is located off Dow Road on land leased decades ago from the U.S. Army.
Following an inspection last year, the military informed the Town their use of that land was largely in violation of the original lease. That lease permitted a waste water treatment plant, a storage building and related uses.
The Town of Carolina Beach was notified in April they are in violation of their 1972 lease agreement with the U.S. Army for land off of Dow Road.
At their June 12, meeting the Council approved $100,000 to fund efforts to comply with the original conditions of the lease.
The property currently houses the Town's Operations Department including public works, public utilities, storm water department and the Town's garage. Additionally, it's home to a greenhouse and various office and storage areas. The Army is demanding the Town comply by the end of 2012.
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.
On November 7, 2011, Sunny Point officials inspected the Operation's yard and other areas of the buffer zone used by the Town. A letter date January 19, 2012 was sent to Carolina Beach Town Manager Tim Owens providing a copy of the inspection report.
The Town sent a letter back outlining improvements noted in the Army's inspection report.
On April 13, Cindy B. Turner, Savannah District, Deputy Chief, Real Estate Division for the Army Corp of Engineers wrote to the Town, "Pursuant to Condition No. 6 of the subject lease, compliance inspections of the leased premises were conducted on November 7, 2011 with a follow-up inspection on March 22, 2012, by my staff and Mr. Michael Fuller of Military Ocean Terminal, Sunny Point. Both inspections identified deficiencies regarding the use of the leased premises. During the follow-up inspection the recent construction of a water retention pond to collect contaminated water runoff
adjacent to the dumpsters was noted. It is evident that the lease site is being utilized for operations that do not comply with the terms and conditions of our lease."
Turner explained, "Condition No. 26 in Supplement No. 1 dated August 11, 1972, states, "The area will be used for construction and operation of a sewage treatment facility and necessary appurtenances and the construction and maintenance of a 40' x 100' storage building and fenced outside storage area." A review of our files shows multiple requests by the Town of Carolina Beach and subsequent denials for permission to relocate the town's public works area, utilities equipment, parking area, supplies and materials to this lease site. The site was leased and made available specifically for the construction, operation and maintenance of a sewage disposal facility to assist in efforts being made by the State of North Carolina to abate the pollution of waters throughout the State. The Government's sole determination was that the requests were not in the best interest of the Government and adversely impacted this commands mission requirements."
The Town was given until the end of June to present a plan for compliance to remove items stored for auction, multiple storage buildings, FEMA trailer, marine vessels, generators, undercarriage water station, maintenance shop and multiple dumpsters and retention pond. That must be finished by the end of the year. That plan was submitted to the Army by the June deadline including a resolution adopted by the Council at their June 22, meeting to send along with the corrective action plan.
That resolution stated, "The Town has worked diligently to remedy the concerns addressed during the compliance inspections and will spend approximately $200,000 and 1,000 man hours on the project" and that, "The Town was instructed that the removal of all items not specifically authorized for operation and maintenance of a sewage treatment facility be accomplished by December 31, 2012."
The resolution stated, "The Town contends that it has historically and with the knowledge by leaders at the Military Ocean Terminal, Sunny Point, operated all aspects of a public works, storm water, waste water treatment plant, water and waste water collections operation."
The resolution states, "The Town of Carolina Beach has limited funds, limited availability of vacant tracts suitable for the construction of a public works facilities, and have limited potential to rent available space for the operation of a public works facility." The Town requested that officials at Sunny Point consider approving a lease amendment for the "historical uses that have been permitted in the leased area" and, "An amended lease is extremely important to the Town given limited availability of tracts large enough to accommodate a public works facility in Carolina Beach and the cost of acquiring the land."
According to the plan submitted to the Army, the Town will take corrective actions requesting progress meetings at regular intervals and be finished by December 31, as ordered. They will also request a 50-year extension to the original lease.
Town Manager Tim Owens recently held a conference call meeting with Sunny Point officials. He advised the Town would be requesting the lease be extended including amendments.
Sunny point officials said they do not have the authority to extend the lease, and if the Town scales back to meet the original lease requirements, they would be able to get a renewal for 50 years.
Owens indicated the difficulty of meeting the December 31, time-line and the expense of obtaining various permits required to relocated various operations from that property.
A Sunny Point official informed the Town they are 18 months away from the lease expiring and the way the Town is currently using the leased land does not appear to be an activity that will be favorably considered either locally or up the chain at the Pentagon or the Secretary of the Army's level. They cannot modify that activity to allow renewal of the lease at this point and have not researched other requirements concerning military buffer zones.
On Monday July 2, Town officials toured the Operations Department with representatives from Congressman Mike McIntyre's office in an effort to educate the Congressman on the issues in hopes they can call upon his assistance at a later date.