- Published on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 14:14
- Written by Super User
Click image for larger view: The Town of Carolina Beach is seeking a variance from state coastal development regulations to extend the existing wooden boardwalk from the downtown area north in front of several hotels and residential properties. Some residents are unhappy with the proposal that will bring the public right past their backdoors and ocean views. (Pictured above:) The existing boardwalk in the distance and existing private beach crossovers the extension will intersect.
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - A project to replace the wooden walkway along the oceanfront at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk is scheduled to begin construction in September of this year. The Town still has to obtain permission from the Coastal Resources Commission to extend the wooden walkway 875' feet to the north. Many residents living in that area are opposed to the extension. The Carolina Beach Town Council got an update on the planning and permitting for the project during their June 10th, meeting.
In late February 2014, 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 originally built in 1989.
The CRC voted to approve the renovation 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 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.
The project would replace the existing wooden boardwalk within a setback area governed by coastal development regulations. Part of the project extends the existing boardwalk along the beachfront 875' feet north to Pelican Lane and the Town must obtain a variance from the rules governing development in that area from the Coastal Resources Commission at their upcoming July 30th, meeting. The Town must prove that strict application of the rules creates a hardship for the project.
Phase one of the project was approved under a CAMA Minor Development permit in September 2013. That phase includes replacement of crossover beach accesses, viewing platform improvements, and excavation of non-dune landscaped coves westward of the existing Boardwalk and redistribution of the sand from those areas to enhance dune low spots eastward of the existing Boardwalk.
A portion of phase 2 of the project proposed under a CAMA Minor Development permit was approved by the CRC on the Town's petition for a variance. Specifically, a variance was granted for the demolition of the existing Boardwalk and crossovers, widening of the existing Boardwalk, and installation of five new public beach accesses, the addition of a roof on a viewing platform, installation of showers at the Harper Avenue access, and installation of a splash pad/water park facility.
The Town applied for a CAMA Minor Permit in May of this year to extend the Boardwalk 875' feet north from Harper Avenue to Pelican Lane. That permit was denied on June 2, 2014. The design proposed in that permit was identical to that approved for the new southern section of the Boardwalk by the CRC in February at 16' wide with three new 10' wide public accesses, three rebuilt existing private accesses, and five ninety-six square foot bump outs for benches and swings. A lattice trellis is proposed at the Pelican Lane access.
The proposed area for the extension is located in the Town's Central Business District (CBD). There are a total of five property owners adjacent to the proposed extension. There are three hotels, a 76-unit condo complex and a two story single-family residence.
The Town filed their variance request for the extension with the CRC earlier this month claiming the project is an effort to "preserve substantial justice by improving the general public's access to the public trust area" along the beachfront.
The Town claims the extension, "Creates a unique opportunity for the general public without other means of access to view and access the ocean and dune ecosystem from a variety of locations. With in increased demand for access to the beach and ocean from elderly and handicapped individuals, the northern extension will allow elderly and handicapped individuals convenient beach access as well as the ability to view the dune ecosystem. An undue hardship to the public would be created from strict application of the development rules, standards, or orders issued by the Commission. Specifically, handicapped individuals would be denied a convenient and safe means of accessing the beach and/or viewing the ocean and dune ecosystem. Furthermore, general public's access to the ocean and view the dune ecosystem would be impaired. A lack of safe access, as provided by the proposed Boardwalk could result in damage to the dune ecosystems by those creating their own means of access to the beach."
In the Town's request for a variance it states, "The proposed northern extension enhances public beach access from Harper Avenue north to Pelican Lane by providing two new wider access ramps and one reconstructed wider ramp at Pelican Lane. At present, there are no public access points location within the proposed 875' feet extension."
The Town claims that in response to comments made by CRC commissioners in February, they have significantly redesigned aspects of the extension to "reduce potential impacts to adjacent residential property owners." The Town's variance request states, "The Town approached each property owner adjacent to the proposed northern extension and attempted to engage the property owner in discussion centered on minimizing potential impacts to the adjacent property and addressing concerns regarding the structure and potential impacts from flood driven debris."
The Town lowered the extension by one foot from a previous average of 2 to 3 feet above the dunes to lessen impact on ocean views. They also reduced the width of the extension from 16' to 8' with the reduction on the landside to increase distance between the extension and the adjacent properties. Four seating "bump outs" were removed from in front of two residential properties to reduce noise impacts from pedestrians and prevent congregation of the public in front of residences. The Town says they will provide security gates where private beach access walkways intersect the extension.
To reduce the risks of flood or wind driven debris damaging structures during hurricanes, the Town says the extension is designed to withstand 139 mph wind speed with pilings driven 16' into the sand.
The Town says through state legislation in the 1960's the Town was granted title to the land where the extension will be constructed.
The Town is moving forward and will open bids from contractors on July 23rd. The Council will be asked to vote to award a bid to a contractor at their August meeting. Construction could begin in September with completion in February 2015.
While most of the focus earlier this year was on the opposition of one residential property owner, several owners have spoken out against the project.
Donald 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.
His daughter - Renee Lewis - spoke to the CRC in May of this year expressing opposition to the extension citing concerns of noise, lighting, trespassing, impact on their ocean view, loss of privacy, safety and crime concerns. Additionally, the potential impact of a large wooden structure impacting their property during a future hurricane.
Lewis commented to the CRC, "May I also say that the Town of Carolina Beach only met with us after your denial of the variance. Our father initially found out about this project by reading about it in the local newspaper" and, "The Town has stated that the Averette family is the only property owner opposing this project. On the day we met with the Town they told us that they had met with the Cabana and addressed their concerns and the Cabana was in agreement with this project."
Lewis said that was incorrect and the CRC should have received letters from owners within the Cabana De Mar condo complex. She explained, "I want to be clear that the proposed enhancements to the existing boardwalk would be a wonderful improvement to the downtown area. Our strong opposition is only with the proposed extension of the boardwalk in front of our home."
Michael Murphy owns two units in the Cabana De Mar condo building. He explained last week his concerns are with increased vandalism, trespassing, loss of privacy and security. He stated, "This proposal will being loitering on the boardwalk benches, noise, increased foot traffic, litter and trash all in front of private development."
Murphy said the extension would also impact ocean views directly for first floor unit owners. He also expressed concerns with insurance liability should a storm cause the wooden extension to break apart and impact the Cabana building. He explained, "Our insurance provider stated that per Cabana's Homeowners Association letter dated April 23, 2014, our property would not be covered from damage inflicted by water driven debris in the instance of a major storm or hurricane. As you can see, this raises serious questions about a 16' foot wide structure running the length of the property and the impact it could have on our property. Additionally, the Town of Carolina Beach will have no liability or obligation to cover any damages resulting from their structure."
Mark Richard is a unit owner in the Cabana De Mar building. He explains this week in a letter to the editor (Click here to read letter.) that, "Many letters and phone calls have been directed to the CRC from the Cabana homeowners, Averette family and the Homeowners’ Association South in opposition to the extension of the boardwalk north. I felt it was necessary to poll the Cabana homeowners to determine if they are for or against the boardwalk extension. The present tally indicates that 47 condominium owners are against and 5 are for the extension."
Richard explained he shares similar concerns with other property owners concerning noise, obstructing ocean views, trespassing and security. He added, "Will the approval for the boardwalk extension set precedence for other coastal communities? Why can a boardwalk be built between properties and the ocean when no other permanent structure is allowed?"
Mike Stepp opposes the boardwalk extension. He wrote in a letter to the editor this week (Click here to read letter.) that he shares concerns of property owners and explained, "It seems like a bad idea in general to further deface the natural beauty of the Carolina Beach dunes and wildlife habitat, especially with a wooden highway 16 feet wide, lighted all night which will likely lower property tax valuations for the city."
He explained, "Why is an additional wooden road on the other side anything but a violation of the right of unobstructed views which define the oceanfront condo we originally purchased sixteen years ago?"
Click here to view the Variance Petition submitted to the Coastal Resources Commission by the Town of Carolina Beach on June 18th, 2014. This includes project description, letters and other materials. (Will open in Adobe Acrobat Reader or you can chose to save the document on your machine.)
Click image for larger view: Artist drawing of the boardwalk improvement project showing the Boardwalk business area.
Part of the existing 750' foot long Boardwalk that runs along the oceanfront in the downtown Boardwalk business area.