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State CRC Approves Majority Of Boardwalk Project Variance

The State Coastal Resources Commission gave partial approval for a project to renovate the wooden Carolina Beach Boardwalk last week.

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CAROLINA BEACH - The North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) approved the majority of a variance requested by the Town of Carolina Beach to renovate their existing oceanfront wooden Boardwalk at a meeting held in Nags Head, NC last week.
According to a press release issued by the Town February 28th, the CRC voted to approve the expansion of the existing boardwalk to include doubling  the width of the boardwalk lane from 8 Ft. to 16 Ft., renovating the landscaped coves,  adding windsails for shading, benches, seating areas, swings, improvements to the  sound stage gazebo including a new roof over the sound stage, and improved beach  access points.
The CRC also asked the town to make one last attempt to work closely with one property owner north of the existing boardwalk to attempt the resolve outstanding issues and return to them to make a presentation at a future meeting. 
According to the release from the Town, "The CRC is supportive of the merits of the expansion project and is interested in giving the opposing property owner the opportunity to become a project supporter. The Town has the support of residents and business owners who are excited to be able to offer an improved boardwalk providing visitors with a variety of recreational, cultural  and educational amenities.  The boardwalk has proudly been featured by CNN, FOX  News and USA Today as one of America’s Most Awesome Boardwalks. The town is moving forward with bidding out the entire project in the next month and looks forward to a showcasing a Boardwalk everyone will be proud of."
The project would replace the existing wooden boardwalk within a setback area governed by coastal development regulations. The Town was aware of the issue and submitted a permit application in late 2013 anticipating the permit would be denied and then require them to request a variance from state regulations.
In December Robb Mairs with the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management denied the permit request stating in a letter, "This decision is based on my findings that your request violates NCGS 113-120(a)(8) which requires that all applications be denied which are inconsistent with CAMA guidelines. Specifically, the development for which you applied consists of replacement and expansion of the existing public beachfront boardwalk, including associated amenities, proposed within the minimum setback (measured 60 feet from the first line of stable vegetation (FLSNV), or 30 times the shoreline erosion rate of 2 feet/year.)."
According to state regulations, with some exceptions, "No development, including any portion of a building or structure, shall extend oceanward of the ocean hazard setback distance."
The law allows such uses as campsites, driveways and parking areas with clay, packed sand or gravel, elevated decks not exceeding a footprint of 500 square feet, beach accessways and other uses with minor impact.
The Town applied for a variance from the rule to permit the project due to the unique nature of the wooden boardwalk and a need to provide public beach access in the area which is the spirit and intent of coastal regulations.
A portion of the variance request stated, "The variance requested by the Town of Carolina Beach will preserve substantial justice. The construction of the proposed Boardwalk will preserve substantial justice by affording those without private access to the public trust lands with safe and convenient access. The proposed Boardwalk will preserve substantial justice by creating safe and convenient handicap accessible access to the public trust land."
The existing boardwalk was constructed in 1989 prior to the adoption of current coastal regulations and is a unique amenity along the North Carolina coast.
The project cost is estimated at 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. Last summer the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved a grant to the town of $500,000 towards the project.
Part of the project extends the existing boardwalk along the beachfront north to Pelican Lane. Mr. Averette owns an oceanfront home within that area and expressed opposition based on concerns of increased foot traffic and noise in front of his property.
Mayor Dan Wilcox said Tuesday the Town had already worked to address Averette's concerns by eliminating overhead lights and replacing them with lower profile lights in addition to other changes.
He said the Town will work to address the property owner's concerns and return to the Coastal Resources Commission for further consideration most likely at their next meeting in May.
He said the project will move forward and the Town will soon put the project out for bid with the extension as an alternate bid.