The North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission has approved a variance request by the town of Carolina Beach to extend their current boardwalk.
“The town is pleased with the CRC vote and are excited to complete the boardwalk as planned,” said Town Manager Michael Cramer.
The request asked for an 875-foot continuation of the existing wooden walkway north from Harper Avenue, where it currently ends, to the beach access at Pelican Lane. It would include benches, swings, and other design elements that the current boardwalk has and would connect the main beach strand to the marina on Myrtle Grove Sound. The town has submitted and withdrawn the request more than once over the last couple of years to make changes that the commission asked for, including narrowing the walkway from 16 feet across to 10 feet.
Carolina Beach officials attended the CRC meeting in Atlantic Beach Tuesday as a group to present their plans to the CRC board.
“They wanted to make sure we were addressing some of the safety concerns the residents had, wanted to make sure we’re protecting the dunes, which we had always planned on reshaping [after construction],” said Councilmember Steve Shuttleworth. “They basically wanted to review the changes we made.”
The proposed plans have become a contentious issue between the town and some of its residents. While the existing boardwalk runs solely in front of businesses, the new part will extend in front of the new Hampton Inn that’s being built as well as other smaller beachfront hotels, some of which have been converted to condominium complexes (the area is zoned as a business district).
Some of the residents who own or rent condos at the Cabana de Mar, located at 222 Carolina Beach Ave. North, have been the most vocal in opposition of the project. Their concerns include security, privacy, noise levels, littoral rights and environmental issues such as the loss of dunes and the impact that may have on their property’s protection from storm surges.
“At best, I am very disappointed,” said Alice Zachodzki, who owns a unit at the Cabana that she and her husband use as their second home. “Who I feel sorry for at this point are the taxpayers of our community who will have to foot the bill for the maintenance and upkeep of this monstrosity for the foreseeable future and for the attorney fees incurred to achieve it.”
“Not everyone in town was on board with this extension but now they will share its expense,” Zachodzki continued. “The town doesn’t have a good track record of maintaining its assets.”
Shuttleworth said the funding for the extension is already in place with grant money from sources such as New Hanover County and the Coastal Area Management Act that were matched by the town. He also said that the commission seemed satisfied with the way the town addressed some of the opposing residents’ concerns (the public was allowed to submit letters of either support or opposition for the project to the board prior to the meeting.)
The next step, according to Shuttleworth, is to update the final bids and hire a contractor. While there is no timeline set yet for the project, town officials are eager to get started after the long delay.
“We’d like to have it done as quickly as possible,” said Shuttleworth. “In the long run it’s going to be a very beneficial addition to Carolina Beach and a big boost to the community.”