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Carolina Beach Council Approves $30,000 For Environmental Study

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CAROLINA BEACH - The Town of Carolina Beach was granted another extension from the U.S. Army to continue various operations until September of this year on land leased since the early 1970's. Now they must pay for an environmental assessment of the property.
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 Council heard concerns from adjacent property owners regarding wetlands, odor, noise and impact on property values 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.
Town has been negotiating with a property owner to lease land located at 110 Dow Road adjacent to an existing commercial storage facility in the Industrial Zone.
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.
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.
At the Council's May 14, meeting Planning Director Ed Parvin explained, "One of the things we have to do to come into compliance is we have to do an environmental study. The study is fairly detailed on what they are asking us to do and we are going to need a budget transfer from the water and sewer reserve fund. We are asking for $30,000 to be transferred to accommodate that study."
The Council voted unanimously to approve the funding.
Last month Councilman Steve 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."