Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Weeks turn to months without public bathrooms, city officials quiet, considering ‘potential litigation’

It has been 77 days - and counting - since the City's deadline for public bathrooms passed. City officials have been quiet, but are considering 'potential litigation.' (Port City Daily photo / BENJAMIN SCHACHTMAN)
It has been 77 days – and counting – since the City’s deadline for public bathrooms passed. City officials have been quiet, but are considering ‘potential litigation.’ (Port City Daily photo / BENJAMIN SCHACHTMAN)

WILMINGTON — It has been nearly two months since city officials were notified that an agreement requiring the construction of public bathrooms had apparently passed its deadline. The developer has cited difficulty getting proper inspections. Meanwhile, the city has had little to say, but may now be considering “potential litigation” to resolve the issue with Northern Riverfront Marina and Hotel.

The issues dates back to an April 18 City Council meeting. Northern Riverfront Marina and Hotel (HRMH) had requested an amendment to their development agreement with the city that would allow it to open two restaurants – BlackFinn Ameripub and Vida Cantina – in time for the Wells Fargo Golf Championship. In exchange, NRHM agreed to build public bathrooms within 90 days, making BlackFinn’s bathrooms open to the public in the interim.

It has been 167 days since Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Wilmington and NRHM was approved, 77 days – or nearly three months – past the deadline.

Delays, and some progress

Developer Chuck Schoninger, manager of NRMH and CEO of USA InvestCo, the company that owns NRMH, said that part of the issue stemmed from having purchased the wrong trailer.

“We were told, at the time of purchase, that these trailers were good to go for state and county requirements,” Schoninger said. “But that ended up not being the case.”

Schoninger said it took some time to find a licensed inspector who familiar with the particular trailers and what they would need to pass inspection.

“There was one in the state, just one inspector, so it took time, but we’re moving forward,” Schoninger said.

According to Jessica Loeper, communication and outreach coordinator for New Hanover County, Schoninger has had the bathrooms inspected.

“The developer has received a third-party inspection and they are in the process of producing the necessary document for our Building Safety Department. Once the county receives the documentation needed, building safety inspectors will inspect the site work required for the modular unit. The inspections will include those for the foundation and the tie-downs for the modular unit,”  Loeper said on behalf of the Building Safety Department.

Neither the Building Safety Department or Schoninger had a timetable for the installation.

City’s position on the issue unclear

It was unclear how the City of Wilmington views Schoninger’s progress. Emails sent last week to City Council and the City Manager’s Office were not returned.

Over a month ago, City Councilman Kevin O’Grady said he expected the council to be briefed on the issue during the Sept. 5 meeting. O’Grady did not respond to emails and calls concerning the issue, but according to Malissa Talbert, spokeswoman for the city,  council members have not had a formal briefing.

Councilman Paul Lawler said that the bathroom MOU was currently in the city’s legal department. City Attorney John Joye said he was unable to comment on it or answer further questions, because the issue was “one of potential litigation.”

City officials, including Talbert and O’Grady had previous said in late August that a full understanding of the MOU could take several weeks. No new timeline for a resolution was offered.

Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001

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