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Back You are here: Home News Local and State News Local Carolina Beach Council Denies Permit Extension For Fairfield Inn

Carolina Beach Council Denies Permit Extension For Fairfield Inn

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council voted unanimously to deny a request to extend a conditional use permit to build a new 90-room Fairfield Inn hotel on the Boardwalk adjacent to the Marriott Hotel during their October 8, meeting.
Carolina Beach Land Holdings LLC, was requesting the Council consider a one-year extension to their Conditional Use Permit for a 90-room hotel that involved road closures on the properties just north of the Marriott on the Boardwalk.
The Fairfield Inn project was approved on January 8, 2008. The Town's zoning ordinance states that a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) is vested for 2 years and was originally set to expire in January 8, 2010. Because of State Session Law that extended the time frame for permits the CUP is valid until December 31, 2013. The request is to extend the permit for another year until December 31, 2014.
According to Town senior Planner Jeremy Hardison, "The Council may extend a CUP for up to twelve (12) months at the applicant’s request. The CUP extension is not a quasi-judicial hearing. No aspect of the hotel has changed since it was originally approved by Town Council on January 08, 2008."
The applicant is requesting the Hotel to be approved under the same terms and conditions from the original grant order.
According to Hardison, "The logical review for staff was to go back and analyze what has changed since January 8, 2008.  Many text amendments have passed since that time, but no changes to local ordinances or the 2007 LUP were discovered that would impact the approval of this project. The proposed hotel is also present on the Central Business District Master Development Plan as an “approved development.”  The title approved development was used only to show what projects in the CBD had a vested right to build at the time the CBD Master Development Plan was created. There are no statements in the plan that speaks in favor or against any of the approved developments."
Hardison explained, "The Division of Coastal Management (DCM) has passed new graduated setback rules that are not an issue for the Fairfield or other development projects in Carolina Beach.  The new rules are not applicable to Carolina Beach due to DCM classifying the Town of Carolina Beach as a “beach fill community.” This basically means that the Town is still under the rules that were in place when the Fairfield Inn was originally approved."
The distance between the existing Marriott and the previously approved Fairfield Inn will be 11' 4". The 11 story 115' foot tall building would offer 90 rooms and have 87 parking spaces. 3 parking spaces and 2 loading spaces have been waived. The total building will be 70,646 sq. ft. with a building footprint of 8,589 sq. ft. The building site is 31,138; and the parking lot on Canal Dr. is 10,350. Another lot on Cape Fear Blvd is  7,000 sq. ft.
Landscape buffers will be required, stormwater will be managed on site and a 12” water line will be installed from Hamlet Avenue to Harper Avenue. As for the road closing, that includes:
• Eastern end of Cape Fear (Tract 1) – 10,530 square feet
• Portion of Carolina Beach Ave. South (Tract 2) – 3,750 square feet
• Alley off of Carolina Beach Avenue South (Tract 3) – 1,063 square feet.
The street closure request is to close the eastern end of Cape Fear Blvd., a portion of Carolina Beach Avenue South and a portion of a 20’ foot right-of-way that leads off Carolina Beach Avenue South. All within the area of the Boardwalk.
If the roads and alleys are closed, the applicant has agreed to deed the estimated northern 74’ feet by 110’ feet of the Cape Fear right-of-way back to the Town for a park area. That means a small portion of the gazebo area at the Boardwalk would become part of the hotel property, with the larger portion given back to the Town for a park.
The project will be required to make water and sewer line improvements in the area and install curb, gutter and sidewalks on all sides of the hotel facing Carolina Beach Avenue South and Cape Fear Blvd.
An outdoor pool will be located to the east of the structure. The hotel will have direct access to the oceanfront Boardwalk to promote the use of the Boardwalk facilities and entertainment while working to enhance pedestrian interconnectivity from the Boardwalk to the south.
In 2009 the developers agreed to donate an existing vacant lot near the Gazebo area to the Town for public open space.
During the October 8th, meeting Keith Bloemendaal - Project Manager for the applicant - explained they were asking for a one-year extension and without the extension the value of the property would be negatively impacted to the tune of one million dollars.
The reason the hotel has not been developed yet is due to market conditions. Bloemendaal said following the market crash a few years ago, the project fell apart. Now that market conditions are improving they are looking at developing the property.
He said, "Without the CUP it's hard to make the project work for the investors. Without the CUP our property would be devalued by about one million dollars."
Bloemendaal noted the project would bring in additional revenues to the Town including room occupancy taxes, sales taxes, additional jobs and they are willing to make infrastructure improvements in the area.
Council member Sarah Friede expressed concerns about how to address infrastructure in the area including sewer and water lines coming from other area businesses.
Gil Dubois - head of the Town's Operations Department - said he has concerns about how utilities would be rerouted. He said the project could be built but, "I am concerned about land locking two existing businesses" on the oceanfront of the Boardwalk. He said sewer pump stations would be required to move sewage through the area to other sewer lines.
Councilmember Friede said the surface parking area on the hotel properties would block people’s access to the beach by providing parking only for the hotel. She asked what business those parking lots would bring to the downtown area.
Bloemendaal said the 90-room hotel would generate business in the area and currently the land proposed for parking is vacant.
A representative of the nearby Putt Putt golf business objected to the project saying it would cut off some access to their business and put a towering building right up to the side of their property.
Councilmember Jody Smith said, "It was a different boardwalk in 2008. It looked completely different when this was designed. It's hard to imagine engineering, the existing businesses there; it's hard for me. Additional hotels would be a great revenue stream for our Town."
Councilman Tom Bridges made a motion to deny the permit extension.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said he's had a number of residents ask why the Town isn't talking about buying some of the land for a public use.
Bloemendaal said breaking up the property would impact the overall ability to develop a project.
Shuttleworth said the permit includes the applicant investing in infrastructure improvements that are now being done by the Town.
Bloemendaal said they would be willing to discuss alternative improvements along the same lines.
He said they would not put in $250,000 into a water line unless they were going to put in a hotel.
He said the extension would allow them to market the project. They've marketed it before, but the economic conditions were not right.
Friede said, "When I look at this plan what I see is a very tall hotel that will look probably like it is one piece with the Marriott and several lots used for parking. How do three parking lots used for the hotel bring people to the CBD."
She said the parking would not be for people visiting the boardwalk businesses, only for the hotel and questioned how that was beneficial to the downtown area.
She said it would take away summer amusement rides and not provide development of other businesses, just parking.
Mayor Bob Lewis said the 200 or so people visiting the hotel could walk to other businesses in the area especially in the off-season during conferences at the Marriott hotel.
Friede said the Town has their own hotels to provide rooms for overflow from the Marriott Hotel during large conferences. The Council voted unanimously to not extend the conditional use permit for an additional year.