Saturday, March 2, 2024

Carolina Beach Council holds Harris Teeter’s fate in their hands, residents fed up with store’s ’empty promises’

Publix construction is underway in Carolina Beach despite pending lawsuits from Harris Teeter (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
Publix construction is underway in Carolina Beach despite pending lawsuits from Harris Teeter. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

CAROLINA BEACH — The grocery wars in Carolina Beach trudge forward as developers from Harris Teeter and Publix refuse to back down — but, as in actual war, it is the people who live in the area who are affected the most by the actions of outsiders.

For years, Harris Teeter has been promising the development of a new grocery store on Lake Park Boulevard — a promise that has gone unfulfilled.

When a developer who had the backing of Publix purchased the land adjacent to the empty Harris Teeter property and promised to build a grocery store at the former site of the Federal Point Shopping Center, a new hope was given to residents that they might finally get a second option for shopping in town.

But the developers behind Harris Teeter had different plans and tried their hardest to delay and even stop the construction of a competitor altogether.

Now it is the Town of Carolina Beach’s Town Council’s turn to show Harris Teeter just how they feel about the stores long-unfulfilled promises.

The developer in charge of the Harris Teeter property, Jubilee Carolina, is requesting another one-year extension for the conditional use permit issued to them in 2017.

According to the council’s agenda, “Once a CUP is granted it is valid for two years. If construction has not started the permit will expire on April 11, 2019. The ordinance does allow for an extension of up to 12 months to be granted by Town Council. Since the April 11, 2017 CUP approval no permits or construction activity has taken place.”

Frustration from residents

For at least one resident in Carolina Beach, he has had enough of the “empty promises” to build a grocery store by Harris Teeter and wants residents to show their support for Publix — a store that has managed to break ground and rapidly construct a new store, despite pending litigation.

He decided to order 30 green t-shirts that read “I love Publix” and hand them out at the door at tonight’s council meeting.

He’s not alone in his frustrations.

“It made me mad that they didn’t fulfill their agreement and build on the island. And to hear they basically got the land to keep other chains from coming here didn’t make it any better,” Carolina Beach resident Tim Chestnutt said.

Chestnutt will actually be handing out the shirts to those in attendance at the meeting since the resident who ordered them will be out of town.

There is plenty of frustration on social media towards Harris Teeter but there are also those still hoping the store keeps its promise and builds a store.

“It’s been over 10 years of promises, plans, and eventual empty promises. Not just one event, not just one year. A full decade. They had their chance, many times over and they blew it. Now Publix made a commitment and broke ground immediately. HT needs to just move on at this point. They don’t have an approved plan for that lot any longer now that they don’t have access from the rear side of the property that they need,” said one resident on Facebook in response to someone’s comment about their preference to Harris Teeter over Publix.

So what would happen if Town Council decides not to renew the conditional use permit?

“If Council denies the request and construction has not started prior to April 11, 2019, then the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) would expire. If the permit expires it would have to go back through the CUP process again (TRC/P&Z/Town Council) to be authorized. It would be up to the owners if they would like to submit the same plan or modify it. Staff would ensure that the plan submitted complied to all standards and requirements of the ordinance prior to moving forward,” Planning Director Jeremey Hardison said.

A portion of one of the lawsuits filed on behalf of Jubilee Carolina (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
A portion of one of the lawsuits filed on behalf of Jubilee Carolina cites the conditional use permit (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

It’s not yet clear what a denial of the extension would mean for Jubilee Carolina and Harris Teeter’s lawsuit against Publix.

In one of the multiple lawsuits filed in New Hanover County by Jubilee, the company claims since it was granted a CUP that allowed cross-access between the two locations, it obtained vested rights to complete the development as submitted. It will likely be up to the courts to determine the company’s standing if the permit lapses and is not granted an extension.

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