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Carolina Beach Planning Commission To Consider Outdoor Storage Yard At 617 Spartanburg Ave.

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CAROLINA BEACH - The Town of Carolina Beach has to relocate their Operations Department (Public Works) from land owned by the U.S. Army off Dow Road. The land was leased to the Town in the early 1970's by the Army with a condition that it only be used for a wastewater treatment plant and associated uses including a storage building and outside storage area.
Over the years other uses became routine on the property. Earlier this year the Town was notified they were in violation of their lease and had to remove all uses not permitted under that lease.
The Carolina Beach Planning and Zoning Commission will consider two items at their upcoming September 13, meeting related to relocating an outdoor storage yard to Town property at  617 Spartanburg Avenue.
The first item on the agenda considers an application by the Town to the Planning Board to amend zoning definitions to increase allowances for government facilities to include outdoor storage in all zoning districts as either permitted by right or by conditional use permit. 
Following a recommendation by the Planning Commission, they will then consider an application by the Town for a conditional use permit (CUP) to locate a "Government Facility – develop a storage yard for Public Works and Public Utilities, 617 Spartanburg Avenue."
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.
Sunny Point officials inspected the current Operations Yard in November 2011. The Town responded to the inspection outlining improvements per that 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 the 1972 lease 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."
She explained, "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 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.
They presented a plan to the Army with a resolution stating they would spend around $200,000 to make corrections. The Town contends that it has historically operated all aspects of a public works, storm water, wastewater treatment plant, water and wastewater collections operation with the knowledge of leaders at Sunny Point.
The Town noted that funds and options for relocating those uses are limited.
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." They will also request a 50-year extension to the original lease.
Town Manager Tim Owens indicated to Council the difficulty of meeting the December 31, time-line and the expense of obtaining various permits required to relocated various operations from that property.
On July 6, after receiving the corrective action plan from the Town, Ralph Werthmann, Chief of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Savannah District, explained in a letter to the Town they had received the Corrective Action Plan and, "I am returning your submission without action. The submitted plan does not adequately address the primary reason for non-compliance which is, use of the leased premises for activities not authorized by the lease. Any increase in the currently approved use within the lease area is prohibited. Carolina Beach's proposal to pursue and/or correct all deficiencies only after a response to the Corrective Action Plan is provided is in violation of the terms and conditions of the current lease document as supplemented."
Owens advised the Council in August that one option would be to get a zoning permit to relocate a "lay-down" storage area near Greenville and Spartanburg Avenues on residential property currently owned by the Town.
Other locations included adjacent to Town Hall or by renovating a small building behind the recreation center for Operations employees. Another option discussed was to alter the layout of offices within Town Hall to accommodate Operations employees entering and existing offices in the rear of the building. That would shift administrative offices into an open atrium in the center of Town Hall that could be modified for additional office space.
Other options included moving an existing modular office trailer behind Town Hall and converting Council's conference room into space for employees.
Owens said those options require time which is limited. He said the ideal solution is to purchase land and relocate everything into new buildings. But that would also take time, money and approval by Council.
A short-term option would be renting space in a local shopping center until a long-term solution can be reached.
The Planning Commission will consider the Town's zoning amendment and permit request at their September 13, meeting at Town Hall at 7PM.