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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Boardwalk Extension Variance

Editorial: Boardwalk Extension Variance

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

The Town of Carolina Beach is requesting a variance from coastal development regulations to extend the wooden boardwalk that parallels the downtown Boardwalk Business area north 875' feet in front of residential properties and several hotels. (See report on page 1-A).
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 front 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."
The extension will not create a "unique opportunity" for the general public to access and view the ocean and "dune ecosystem" from a variety of locations. How can it be "unique" when the Town already provides numerous public beach access areas with parking and provides beach wheelchairs when requested? The existing boardwalk in the downtown area is ADA accessible and provides a vast area of opportunity to view the ocean.
An "undue hardship to the public" would not be created if the state denied the Town's variance request. On the contrary, improving the existing wooden boardwalk would absolutely provide more than enough opportunity for viewing the ocean and "dune ecosystem."
As for people creating their own means of access over the dunes without the extension, that's called breaking the law and people should be held accountable. The extension looks great on paper, but it's slicing through people's backyards while merely connecting to beach accesses at nearby hotels. If this variance is granted, then what's to stop the Town from claiming they need another extension to the south of the Boardwalk in the future? A variance would set precedent.
Providing access means a walkway from a road or parking area crossing the dunes to the beach. There are several city blocks worth of existing wooden boardwalk where people can cross to the beach or sit and look out at the ocean. That boardwalk needs improvement and those enhancements will be greatly appreciated.
The extension on the other hand will likely be entirely under utilized and serve no real purpose. People will not miss it if it isn't built. Purchasing additional parking areas and improving older beach accesses along our oceanfront would be a more fiscally responsible and neighborly thing to accomplish.