The Town of Carolina Beach has resubmitted a variance request to extend the Carolina Beach Boardwalk to the Division of Coastal Management. The Coastal Resources Commission will hear the request at their meeting in Atlantic Beach this Tuesday and Wednesday.
The 875-foot proposed extension would take the boardwalk north from Harper Avenue to the beach access on Pelican Lane. According to a news release from the town, it would “provide several new beach accesses, improved pedestrian circulation, and be fully handicapped accessible.” This is the third time the request, which can be pulled and adjusted by the applicant before a vote is taken, has been submitted in the last couple of years.
The northern extension, which would approximately double the length of the existing boardwalk, has been been a controversial subject in the beach town and came up as an issue during municipal elections campaigns this fall.
While most people seem to agree that the boardwalk should reach the Hampton Inn that is currently being built just north of Harper Avenue, where the current public walkway ends, residents and town officials and organizations are divided on development beyond that point.
Town councilmember Steve Shuttleworth, who was re-elected to another two-year term earlier this month, said both during his campaign and after his victory that the project is one of his priorities.
“I’d like to finish the boardwalk extension project,” Shuttleworth said on election night. “It’s part of the original plan [that the town made for boardwalk development] and I’d like to see it completed.”
Greg Reynolds, the executive director of the Pleasure Island Chamber of Commerce, said his organization is also in favor of the extension and has been trying to gather letters of support ahead of this week’s meeting.
“I think it will be good to connect the marina to the boardwalk,” Reynolds said. “It would be nice if it was a real boardwalk that was half a mile long instead of just 800 feet long.”
Most of the pushback against the development has come from residents who own beachside condos and have concerns about privacy, security, noise levels, littoral rights and less protection from storm surges. Several emails have been sent to the CRC expressing their opposition to the project.
“We paid the extra price for beachfront property, not behind-a-boardwalk property,” wrote Loretta Griggs, who said she and her husband have owned property in Carolina Beach since 1995. “Our rights as property owners would be taken away with an extension in either direction … The plan for expansion is an ill-conceived plan that would benefit only a few.”
“I am adamantly opposed to the northern extension of the boardwalk,” wrote another resident, Alice Zachodzki, who owns a unit with her husband at Cabana De Mar at 222 Carolina Beach Ave. North that they keep as a second residence. “My concerns are, but not limited to, the serious damage likely to occur to the dunes and their vegetation as a result of the construction process, the reduced privacy and security we would suffer, the transformation of a pristine natural area, the dune line, into a public walkway and the negative effects it could cause to our property value.”
“We support the existing boardwalk, but do not support the boardwalk extension north,” Joe and Angela Carrabis, who have been permanent Cabana residents for 20 years, said in an email. “This is an intrusion on homeowners who own oceanfront property along the proposed 875-feet stretch of boardwalk. We feel the negative impact outweighs any benefits.”
Cabana de Mar residents have been among the most vocally opposed, but Reynolds, Shuttleworth and other boardwalk supporters have pointed out that the complex is not in an area zoned for private residences.
“I understand both sides, I see where they’re coming from, but they’re in a business district, they’re not in a residential district,” said Reynolds, who said that the Cabana was originally built as a hotel in the 1980s. “The intent is not to be in the residential district. That is part of the central business district, which includes the marina.”
Carolina Beach Town Council members will be traveling to the meeting, which is being held at the Hilton Double Tree Hotel in Atlantic Beach, on Tuesday afternoon as a group, according to the town’s clerk Kim Ward.
The town’s full variance application as well as more information on the review process can be found here on the Division of Coastal Management’s website.