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Planning Commission Recommends Approval Of Hampton Inn Project

The Carolina Beach Planning Commission voted to recommend Town Council approve a request to build an oceanfront eight-story 100 room Hampton Inn and Suites on the northern end of the downtown Boardwalk at their October 10th, meeting.

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CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended the Town Council approve of a permit to construct a new Hampton Inn and Suites at 1 Harper Avenue on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk during their October 10, meeting. 
The commission discussed parking requirements at length.
The Commission considered the request for a conditional use permit to construct an eight story tall 100 room oceanfront Hampton Inn and Suites on the northern end of the Boardwalk. Blanchard & Calhoun Commercial, a real estate development and commercial brokerage firm in Augusta, Georgia, updated their website earlier this summer listing the project and opening date of fall 2014.
In May Blanchard & Calhoun sent a letter to the Town 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.
Their website stated, "A 106-room select service Hampton Inn & Suites that is currently under development and projected to open in Fall 2014. The hotel will provide a full service breakfast, ample meeting space, outdoor pool with sundeck, fitness center, business center, guest laundry room, and beach access. Located at the northern end of Pleasure Island on the shores of a scenic, family-friendly North Carolina beach."
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.
Following review by the Planning Commission the Town Council will require a public hearing before making a final decision. The Town's Technical Review Committee (TRC) reviewed the project. The narrative for that review stated, "The project includes a 7 story, 100 room, 67,860 heated square foot Hampton Inn & Suites over a single level of surface parking.  The Hotel will be provided with 100 parking stalls, the majority of which will be on the hotel property.  An amenity package of a 980 square foot swimming pool, sunning/seating areas, a “fire pit”, and a “pool bar” will be constructed on the first elevated level of the hotel, facing the ocean.  Access to the beach will be provided from the existing wooden boardwalk located in the Southeast corner of the site and modified to connect to the new pool deck on the first elevated level of the hotel."
According to Stewart - an engineering, design and planning firm located in Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte, N.C. - the site work is to include arrival canopy, surface parking (most under the hotel tower), an arrival lobby for the hotel, elevator lobbies for the two elevator banks, fire exits for the emergency stairs, a dumpster enclosure, and an equipment room for the pool."
According to Stewart, "An on-site storm water detention system will be provided to meet jurisdictional requirements. Off site work includes improvements to the pedestrian crossings at the Harper Ave and Canal Street intersection adjacent to the hotel, improvements to sidewalks on Canal Street, improvements to the 30 foot wide public beach access corridor on the south side of the hotel, improvements to Canal Street, Harper Avenue, and Carolina Beach Ave North, improvements to the existing public parking lot across the street which provides more public parking spaces, replacement of the nine current public parking spaces impacted by this project, and repair of the existing deck/beach access ramp."
Commission Chairman Greg Reynolds said he likes the economic aspect of the project but has an issue with dedicating public parking spaces in a primary parking area that serves people visiting the boardwalk area. He said his preference would be for the developer to buy land and trade with the Town for a land swap. He added that towing of vehicles parked in "hotel" marked spaces could become an issue. He said, "I understand we are getting the same net parking spaces but the Town can go in here and do the same thing and pick up those twenty spaces for incoming producing property. On the other hand, the hotel will bring a lot of money into the Town, tax base." He said, "I'm not sure giving up the prime parking spaces is the best decision for the citizens of Carolina Beach."
Commissioner Tammy Hansen said she favors the hotel but would like to see the hotel spaces positioned in another portion of the Town parking lot rather than nearest to the boardwalk.
She said it's an issue of fairness and, "When people come to the boardwalk we need parking that is a little more accessible" adding that people who stay at the hotel can walk out to the beach while visitors parking in the Town lot have to lug their beach chairs and kids to the beach. The commission unanimously recommended Council approve permit with condition that Harper Avenue at the intersection with Canal Drive go back to three lanes; investigate the new extension of Carolina Beach Avenue North and Canal going to three lanes which would allow fire truck access; look at designated parking area for hotel to be a little bit further away to try to give the main Canal Drive side back to the visitors and residents. Also, that the Town ensure an adjacent property have access  from public right of ways. The Town wil provide a long term lease on 21 spaces and waive 7 spaces.