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Carolina Beach And County Sign Agreement For Boardwalk Grant

The Town of Carolina Beach recently received a permit to start work on a $1.6 million dollar project to widen the aging wooden boardwalk along the downtown oceanfront and make other improvements such as a splash-park and extending the walkway 800' to the north.

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Town of Carolina Beach received $500,000 last week from New Hanover County following signing of an agreement for the funding.
The grant funding will help the Town fund a $1.6 million dollar project to widen the aging wooden boardwalk along the downtown oceanfront and make other improvements such as a splash-park and extending the walkway 800' to the north.
According to the Interlocal Agreement between the Town and County, the Town is improving the boardwalk which includes expanding the width of the existing structure and extending the length at a cost of approximately $1,603,000 part of which will be funded through a $250,000 Water Resources grant from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources that requires a $250,000 match from the Town and a $603,000 CAMA grant from the State Division of Coastal Management.
The agreement states, "The County, recognizing this completed project will benefit the County through additional sales and property tax revenues, has approved granting $500,000 towards the project costs."
According to the agreement, the Town will use the grant money only to pay for necessary costs to complete the construction of the project. The County will disburse the grant to the Town in the amount of $500,000 after such time that all permits necessary for phase one of the project, which includes constructing a new access walkway, replacing existing public water/beach access walkways and dune enhancement, have been obtained.
The agreement states, "To ensure the County's grant is being used for its intended purpose which is the construction of the project, after disbursement of the County's grant, the Town must provide documentation on at least a quarterly basis, including invoices and payment documentation, for all disbursements made using the County's grant."
The Town will provide the County Board of Commissioners with an annual update "regarding project status and the funding uses and sources for the project."
According to the agreement, "The disbursement of funds to the Town is considered a grant from the County for this particular project. Should said project not receive the required permits to be complete or if the project for any other reason cannot be completed within three years, the County will withhold payments due to the Town, including but not limited to property tax collections, as repayment of the County's grant unless repayment of the County's grant has otherwise been made."
The Town of Carolina Beach got good news in September. They were issued a permit by the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management to move forward with phase one of their Boardwalk Improvement Project and were given an extension on a State grant to begin the project.
According to Jerry Haire, Project Coordinator for the Town, "The existing 8 foot wide Boardwalk was constructed in 1989, and is now antiquated and in much need of renovation or replacement. The proposed plan is to replace the entire 750 foot structure with a new 16 foot wide Boardwalk with all new 10 foot wide public beach accessways. The plan also includes extending the Boardwalk 875 feet north to the Pelican Lane Public Access, the previous site for NC Aquarium Pier and Access Park. A possible future phase to extend south to Hamlet Ave. has been discussed but is not included in the current plan."
Haire explained, "The Boardwalk Improvement Project addresses a top 5 goal in our 2007 CAMA Land Use Plan, is included in our adopted Bicycle Multi-Use Transportation Plan and the Wilmington-New Hanover County Comprehensive Greenway Plan. The Town is now ready to make the plans a reality and provide citizens and visitors with a safer, more attractive boardwalk with much improved beach access and a variety of amenities."
He explained, "The new wider structure design will be handicapped accessible and provide ample access and circulation space for the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the island each year. Plentiful seating areas, swings, wind sail shading, gazebos, unique water tunnels, vortexes, misters and other “cool - off” stations and additional showers are included in this oceanfront linear park design to make the Boardwalk an inviting destination point for all ages. The landscaped coves between the Boardwalk and sidewalk will be redesigned to include a splash pad park, public art, historical and environmental educational kiosks, shaded seating and picnic facilities and open space for music, art and other cultural events and passive recreational use."
Haire explained, "The new extension north to Pelican Lane linking to our sidewalk and Bike Route system will provide a 1 mile walking and biking loop connecting the beach and Boardwalk with the Carolina Beach Marina, shopping, restaurants and all of the central business district amenities. The Boardwalk Improvement Project encompasses a full slate of public benefits for the Town and region including improved public beach access, a variety of recreational, cultural/educational amenities and alternative transportation opportunities. The project is proposed in 2 phases, with Phase 1 being the northern extension to be commenced the fall, and Phase 2 being demolition and re-development of the existing Boardwalk in the fall/winter after the summer tourist season."
He explained, "The historic Carolina Beach Boardwalk has been an east coast icon since the original structure was built in the 1930’s. It is noted in a number of publications as one of the top ten Boardwalks in America. The proposed re-construction and extension project will provide a much needed facelift for the existing Boardwalk. Combined with the new northern extension, this project will serve as a unique demonstration of local and state government commitment to providing quality facilities for public beach access and enjoyment."
The Town Council appointed an ad-hoc committee in May. Committee work sessions resulted in a creative variety of design elements that have been incorporated into the project plans. Following Town Council approval of the concept plan on June 23rd, staff focused on funding acquisition from CAMA and New Hanover County. With approval of $603,000 in CAMA grant funds in early August, and approval of a $500,000 grant from the County on August 19 the project was fully funded and ready to proceed to design completion. Completion of the remaining project elements and amenities will be a joint effort by the committee, staff and consultants with public input.
During the September 17, meeting Haire explained the first part of a State Water Resources Grant of $150,000, "Was due to expire at the end of this month. We got some great news this past Friday, the state officials had told us no way, we were not going to get an extension" and, "We already had one extension and we don't do extensions."
Haire said they were working hard to break the project into two phases in order to begin using the $150,000 grant funds. He said, "It would be sort of a piecemeal approach. I got on the phone with state official and said listen here is where we are, here is what we've got done and is there any way to get an extension?"
He explained state officials approved an extension until next April which gives them more room to breath rather than having to work overtime on spending the money by the end of September to get the first phase underway.
Assistant Town Manager Ed Parvin said earlier this year that state officials recommended the project be split into two phases. The first phase to start prior to the end of October in order to use a Water Resources grant. He said a minor CAMA permit will be required to grade the cove areas, plant vegetation and rebuild the beach access walkways crossing from the concrete walkways over to the beach. That includes rebuilding the beach stage and adding another access way for that stage. Also, working on utilities including lights, water and sewer and other underground utilities.
Parvin said, "Then we need to ask for another permit that will get denied and we will have to get a variance for. The second minor permit is basically for the actual boardwalk. Completing the rebuilding of the boardwalk" that runs north to south. That includes extending that boardwalk north to the Pelican Lane beach access.
Parvin said the variance is required because current coastal regulations only permit beach access walkways. The boardwalk walkway is a unique request. That will require the Town requesting a variance from the Coastal Resources Commission.