Monday, March 4, 2024

Why did the Town of Carolina Beach just agree to buy an old gift shop on the boardwalk?

In a closed session, the Town of Carolina Beach's Town Council agreed to purchase this parcel located behind the Gazebo on the Boardwalk (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
In a closed session, the Town of Carolina Beach’s Town Council agreed to purchase this parcel located behind the Gazebo on the Boardwalk. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

CAROLINA BEACH — Last month the Carolina Beach Town Council held a special meeting where they entered into a closed session to discuss a ‘real estate matter’ — when they exited, a motion was made to purchase a piece of property located at 3 Carolina Beach Avenue South.

The purchase will set the town back $337,500, which is not as costly as some of the town’s previous land purchases, but until now, plans for the purchase have been kept out of the public eye.

State law does allow governments to enter into closed sessions to discuss the purchasing of property, which is what happened during the meeting, according to Carolina Beach Mayor Joe Benson.

There will be a public hearing on Tuesday were residents can voice their opinion’s on the town taking out a 15-year loan for $1.2 million to pay for the property along with the reconstruction of restrooms at Hamlet Avenue — but the motion to purchase the property has already been made and approved.

According to the Sept. 10 meeting agenda, the Town Councill will consider a, “Reimbursement Resolution for the purchase of 3 Carolina Beach Avenue South and demolition and reconstruction of public bathrooms at 102 Hamlet Avenue adding office, training and storage space for Ocean Rescue.”

The demolition and reconstruction of the bathrooms which are currently located in the Hamlet Avenue parking lot will presumably take-up the bulk of the costs from the $1.2 million the town hopes to acquire from BB&T, the sole bank to offer the town a loan for this project.

According to Town Council’s agenda, the town solicited bids from five different banks for the loan — only BB&T responded.

So far, according to Debbie Hall, finance director for the town, the only money spent has been for ‘earnest money’ (i.e. a good faith deposit) — but the council will be signing a reimbursement resolution just in case more money is spent before the loan is closed.

Also, the demolition of the restrooms at Hamlet Avenue will likely take place before the loan is approved.

“The only thing we have spent so are is the $2,000 for earnest money. We have Council approving the reimbursement resolution just in case the Town spends funds prior to the LGC loan approval and loan closing in October. The loan will also cover the cost of demolition of the Hamlet restrooms which will likely take place prior to the loan approval/closing,” Hall said.

But why?

Preserving public spaces has been an ongoing subject of discussion during land use plan meetings (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
Preserving public spaces has been an ongoing subject of discussion during land use plan meetings. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

So what does the town need with an old gift shop behind the Gazebo on the Boardwalk? Well, apparently they plan on storing lifeguard equipment there, along with other options.

“The Town of Carolina Beach, North Carolina desires to purchase property for: Temporary lifeguard storage; the housing of critical safety and security infrastructure; management of tourism and recreational activities, and; future open space. Likewise, the Town plans to demolish and reconstruct the town-owned public bathroom to add office, training and storage space for Ocean Rescue (the “Project”) to better serve the citizens of the Town of Carolina Beach,” according to the resolution.

One of these other uses could be ‘future offices’ — what this means is still unclear but according to meeting minutes from the specially called Town Council meeting on Aug. 20, that is what the mayor’s motion called for.

Benson said that the town will need a new place to store Ocean Rescue resources since the town will not be renewing its lease with the current property owner where Ocean Rescue is located now.

Another reason for the purchase is due to the feedback the town has received from its residents during the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) Land Use Plan meetings that have been ongoing. Residents have expressed an interest in more public spaces including town-owned properties, Benson said.

While the old gift shop will serve as temporary storage for Ocean Rescue, that is not going to be the sole purpose of the property Benson said. In fact, if it is feasible, he said the town is considering adding new public bathrooms to the property since the current ones located on the boardwalk are in a CAMA zone and cannot be rebuilt to the extent the town would like.

Town Council has approved the purchase and has agreed to terms with the seller but it does appear that there will be time for residents to voice their opinions on both the purchase of the property as well as the Hamlet Avenue bathroom project.

The Hamlet Avenue project, just a few hundred yards away, will actually consist of new bathrooms as well as house Ocean Rescue Benson said, so that project will be utilizing most of the project’s cost, for now.

Carolina Beach Town Council meets Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., the meeting is open to the public and a public hearing will be held on the topic of the $1.2 million loan.

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