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Carolina Beach Approves Changes For Hampton Inn Project Permit

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council unanimously approved changes to a conditional use permit for a new oceanfront Hampton Inn and Suites at their January 14th, meeting after lengthy discussion. The Council agreed to waive parking requirements and require the developer to grade a Town-owned gravel parking lot on Canal Drive across from the Town's marina.
The Council previously approved a permit to construct the eight story, 100-room hotel at 1 Harper Avenue on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk during their November 12th, meeting.
Blanchard & Calhoun Commercial, a real estate development and commercial brokerage firm in Augusta, Georgia, purchased the property from a previous owner who had planned to construct a Hilton Garden Inn at the same location. This site was previously approved for a 191-room 125-foot tall hotel in 2007.
The site has since been sold and is a completely different project. Currently on the site is 170’ of right of way for Carolina Beach Avenue N. and 41,930 sq. ft. of vacant land. The building site property is .96 acres located in the CBD. The proposed structure is 87.5’ feet in height. The footprint of the structure is 22,626 square feet.
A pool will be located on the second floor, along with a breakfast café, outside bar area and an outside seating area. The hotel will have direct access to the boardwalk.
The project requires 100 parking spaces. Previously 73 of those spaces were provided on the hotel property. The developer was asking for a waiver for 9 spaces lowering the requirement to 91 spaces overall. The three public parking lots between Harper Avenue and Carl Winner Street were to be redesigned to act as one large parking lot by the developer to increase available parking. 18 spaces in the parking lot closest to the Boardwalk area near the corner of Harper Avenue and Canal Drive would have been designated only for hotel use.
The developer said those spaces would typically only be needed during the busy peak times of the summer tourist season. The spaces would be labeled as hotel parking spaces.
Following approval of the conditional use permit for the hotel project, the Council approved closing a 170' portion of Carolina Beach Avenue North to facilitate the hotel project. Now closed, the road will become part of the hotel property.
Town Manager Michael Cramer sent an update to Council on December 6th, explaining, "At the November 12, 2013 Town Council Meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Shuttleworth made a motion to approve the Hampton Inn Hotel Project with the fact that it met all seven required findings, general conditions 1-4, and is conditioned upon the recommendations of the draft grant order that was listed in staff.  Also direct staff to negotiate a lease after 20 years for the 18 [parking] spaces and report back to council what that lease is, preferably close to some kind of market rate and also to memorialize the landscape changes, specifically the connectivity to the boardwalk, the sidewalk expansion from Carl Winner to Harper and the grading of the Harbor Master lots. The motion was carried unanimously."
Cramer explained that following the November approval it was discovered that a portion of the permit may not have been in compliance with state law governing how long a Town can lease public land to a private company. Basically, state law limits lease terms to 10 years. For terms longer than that, a process requiring the Town to advertise for upset bids must be followed. State law § 160A-272.  Lease or rental of property, states, " Leases for terms of more than 10 years shall be treated as a sale of property and may be executed by following any of the procedures authorized for sale of real property."
Cramer explained, "Due to these additional steps, the possibility of upset bid and the time frame for completion of the additional steps, the Developer is considering applying for a modification of the CUP site plan."
The new plan is to utilize recently acquired property and on-site plan modifications to allow the Developer to establish an additional 6 parking spaces on their own property. These changes will allow the Developer to provide 79 parking spaces on their property and they requested the town waive a total of 21 parking spaces. Through the November 12, 2013 grant order, town council has already waived 9 parking spaces, so the Developer is asking for an additional 12 spaces to be waived.
He explained, "In addition to the waving of the parking spaces the existing CUP requires “the sidewalk expansion from Carl Winner to Harper and the grading of the Harbor Master lots.” These improvements will add an estimated 44 public parking spaces to the existing 14 public spaces for a total of 58 spaces in the Harbor Master Lot.  Using the existing Harbor Master Lot revenue as a benchmark we anticipate an increase in revenue estimated at approximately $8,018.00 per year for the new parking spaces."
Cramer explained, "With the proposed CUP modification the Developer will meet the parking requirements and will not require the use or modification of the town’s “Palms” parking lots. If for some reason the Developers business model is not correct and additional parking is required then either the hotel or the hotel clients will pay for parking in the town parking lots in a “first come first serve” manner."
After lengthy discussion about the project and previous conditions for approval, the Council voted unanimously to approve of the requested changes. The developer said due to purchasing land in the interim to facilitate more parking on their property they would not make improvements to the Town's sidewalk or parking lots. The Council added a condition of approval requiring the developer to improve the gravel lot known as the "Harbor Masters Lot" on Canal Drive across from the Municipal Marina and Gibby's Restaurant.