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Carolina Beach Mayor Addresses Planned Hotel Development; Parking

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - A new hotel has been planned for the vacant property located on the northern end of the Carolina Beach Boardwalk for a number of years. Earlier this month Blanchard & Calhoun Commercial, a real estate development and commercial brokerage firm in Augusta, Georgia, sent a letter to the Town Council saying they are ready to move forward and outlined aspects of the project including a proposal to lease town parking spaces and make other improvements in the area. Carolina Beach Mayor Bob Lewis explained Tuesday May 28, his outlook on the proposed project saying that details of the plans and parking proposal have not yet been decided and will have to undergo a conditional use permit process and public hearings before any final decision could be made by the Council.
Lewis explained, "As posted in the Island Gazette we are in negotiations with the developer of the proposed Hampton Inn and Suites at the Boardwalk on Carolina Beach Ave North" at the end of Harper Avenue on the oceanfront.
Lewis explained the estimated economic value of the project would benefit the community in multiple ways.
In 2007 a previous development company proposed a Hilton Garden Inn on the same property. That project called for 191 rooms in an 11-story building with a 5,632 square foot conference facility and a 200 seat Sundeck Pavilion restaurant.
Last year the new developer indicated to the Planning Department the number of rooms would decrease from 191 to between 90 and 130 rooms and 11 floors or less.
Lewis explained Tuesday he estimates the project will generate over "$30,000.00 a year in property taxes depending on the valuation of the property once completed", and generate, "In excess of $100,000.00 in annual Room Occupancy Taxes" charged to guests to fuel the County's Room Occupancy Tax Fund which funds beach nourishment projects, events and tourism promotion of the area.
Lewis said he estimates, "In excess of $70,000.00 in annual Water and Sewer revenues. This type of development was part of the reason the town built the new sewer lift station in the Central Business District last year." 
He explained the project could generate 40 full time job opportunities for residents and, "Support additional hiring opportunities and additional increases in revenue for our business community."
Lewis said the hotel suite concept will attract more families to visit Carolina Beach and in turn bring an increase in sales tax revenues.
Lewis explained, "The development of three lots on Carolina Beach Ave North for parking will add another $5,000.00 annually in net revenue for the town", and, "The Hotel is proposing to lease a small group of
parking spaces annually from the town to fulfill their franchise requirements. The developer is also looking to participate in the revitalization of the old wooden boardwalk along its ocean frontage."
Lewis explained, "These new revenue sources can provide our town with the ability to pay for or offset the cost of town services without the need for property tax increases. This may mean there is a possibility we could reduce property taxes again in the future once the hotel is built and operating."
He explained, "We have had early discussions with the developer about proposed plans but as yet we have not been provided a detailed architectural plan. The developer is planning on providing those drawings to the Planning and Zoning Department along with beginning the permitting process in the next week or so. Since this project will be coming to council for a Conditional Use Permit all of
council will have to evaluate the plan and the developers proposed conditions prior to this project moving forward.  Council can also require certain conditions in order to approve the CUP application and as in every process you the public will get your chance to voice your opinions. Council in our deliberation will work hard to create a win-win opportunity for our residents and business owners."
 Lewis said, "Our choices as a town council is to work for the betterment of the community by investing time to work through the challenges and develop a positive solution for our community or as some residents not allow any development.  I understand that there are a few town residents who do not want any more economic development in Carolina Beach and really like the look of the empty lots and buildings in our business district."
He explained, "I for one am tired of driving by the numerous empty lots in the Central Business District every day. I take pride in my community and I love Carolina Beach and it is tough for me to see all the improvements we have made to the town and specifically the Central Business District
and look at empty lots and empty buildings. Based on my 40 years of corporate management experience I see the new oceanfront hotel as a cornerstone for future economic growth for our town."
He said, "As taxpayers we have already invested in some infrastructure improvements (water and sewer) in the Central Business District over the past 5 years and to support future growth and mostly to replace old deteriorating pipes and pumps.  This future hotel and other developments could begin to provide all of us a return on our investment by offsetting future infrastructure improvement costs to property owners."
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth explained Tuesday that he and other council members have had prior discussions individually with the developer about various parking arrangements for the hotel verses the developer building a deck into the building design.
Shuttleworth said it's not uncommon for developers to seek some direction prior to spending money on expensive plans and documents. He added, "I understand that, but we have a Conditional Use Permit process and that has to be followed. Then we can consider the project and parking." He said, "Nothing has been preapproved and no plans have been  submitted" to date.
Vic Mills - Chief Executive Officer of Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial Corporation - wrote to the Council earlier this month, " Subject to Councils approval, the town will lease 48 parking spaces on the parcel highlighted in yellow attached to our hotel entity for $1 per year in perpetuity for so long the hotel operates on the site. The lease will provide the city the right to terminate the lease should the hotel cease operations for an extended period."
Mills explained, "The lease would require that the hotel build an attractive “knee wall” of the same materials utilized for the exterior of the hotel in the same architectural
style and maintain the area, installing a gate for entrance and exit, which will clearly identify the parking area to be used for the hotel."
Mills explained, "As the Developer of the Hotel, we will be responsible for providing modifications to the towns existing parking lot (shown in green on the attached) to include removing and reinstalling curbs, landscape areas, etc. in order to revise the parking area to be consistent with the plans provided by Rob Ponder."
The map attached to the letter shows the Town's existing public parking lots behind the Bank of America and McDonald's properties between Harper Avenue and Carl Winner Street at the Town's Municipal Marina.
The 48 parking spaces requested by the developer are located in the existing public parking lot closest to Harper Avenue in the southern section of the lot.
Mills said improvements to other area lots would increase parking and agreed to install gravel on an existing unpaved parcel owned by the town so as to provide 48 new parking spaces.
Once the developer submits plans for the project the Planning Department will review the documents and bring the proposal before the Planning and Zoning Commission for a public hearing. Following that meeting, the Town Council would schedule a public hearing and then make a final decision after hearing input from the public.