Saturday, February 4, 2023

Take 3: Battleship Point annexation delay, Carolina Beach’s 95-foot Ferris wheel

Carolina Beach will get a 95-foot Ferris wheel that will operate weekends until Memorial Day then full time through November. Possibly, thereafter it will be utilized for special events and holidays. (Port City Daily/File)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — As news unfolds throughout the week, Port City Daily tries to cover topics that remain top-of-mind to the community. However, small newsrooms like PCD can’t always get to everything. (Consider supporting our work here.)

Here’s a weekly roundup of headlines that are important nonetheless and should be on the public’s radar — but didn’t necessarily make it on the site as soon as the news dropped.

On the lesser known side of the Cape Fear River, a development team is trying to turn a scrapyard property into three high-rise residences, and start a new era in riverfront development. (Port City Daily/Johanna F. Still)

KFJ delay Leland annexation request for Battleship Point

Town of Leland or New Hanover County? 

KFJ Development Group has traversed simultaneous paths since in an attempt to bring its development, the Villages at Battleship Point, to fruition. Now, the developers are pausing to sort out some technical aspects.

Originally slated to be on the Town of Leland’s upcoming agenda, KFJ Development Group canceled next week’s public hearing regarding Battleship Point. This comes one week after New Hanover County commissioners hosted a work session to discuss possible development of the west banks of the Cape Fear River, where KFJ has proposed Battleship Point’s construction.

Founding member Kirk Pugh, the “K” in KFJ, said his team wants to do some additional research about what annexing into the Town of Leland would mean.

“We want to make sure we’re not creating a challenge for us further down the road,” Pugh said, though he declined going into more detail as to what the obstacles may be.

If the Town of Leland were to approve the annexation, those 8 acres would still be considered part of New Hanover County, not the town’s home of Brunswick County. Annexation is possible across counties, as long as the annexed territory is within 3 miles of the annexing municipality’s corporate limits.

Last month, Leland planning board voted 4-3 to recommend the town council approve three items: First, to consider annexing the proposed 8 acres at 110 Point Harbor Dr. on Peter Point. It also recommended a text amendment for a new zoning district and rezoning the land as riverfront urban mixed-use. 

Council was set to vote on the matter at its next meeting before KJF tabled the move Thursday.

At this time Pugh said there is no new date set for the public hearing, as it’s dependent on how quickly the team works through its concerns.

“We’re not in a particular rush,” he said. “Annexation is a big step … we want to make sure we’ve done all our due diligence of what the possible implications of that could be.”

KFJ’s Battleship Point would consist of a three-tower development, reaching up to 240 feet to house 550 condominiums, 300 apartment units, a small- to mid-sized boutique hotel and commercial space. The developers originally reached out to New Hanover County to consider creating a new zoning district that would allow for the project. As it stands, the land is zoned for heavy industrial use.

The New Hanover County Planning Board first heard the idea of creating the new zoning district last fall and proceeded to recommend commissioners deny the request. Commissioners shelved the discussion in favor of holding a work session to gather more information. 

In February, KFJ brought the same request, as well as a proposed annexation before the Leland planning board, which then sent it to council in March.

At the Mar. 31 New Hanover County work session, commissioners heard the community’s concerns, though the developers couldn’t respond. No decisions were made.

“We’ve never shut the door on New Hanover County and don’t intend to,” Pugh said. “We began investigating other options when we started down the path with Leland.”

Pugh iterated they do not have a preference on who to work with on their proposal, so long as it gets done.

In the meantime, the group is under contract to buy Point Peter, a peninsula at which the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear rivers meet. Pugh said they have removed almost 400 tons of trash and debris and are continuing with soil stabilization, erosion control measures and continuing conversations with architects and engineers.

He added the developers are taking some time to ensure they are communicating their message clearly to the public before making any decisive moves.

“It’s not a sprint,” he said. “It’s a marathon.” — Amy Passaretti

Chemours and CFPUA are monitoring levels of PFAS chemicals downriver form the Chemours plant in Greenville. Pictured is the Cape Fear River near downtown Wilmington. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Chemours will have to pay a fine and further limit GenX emissions, while conducting additional testing. (Port City Daily/File)

Chemours to pay $305K for breaking consent agreement

Chemours signed a settlement Tuesday with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) to further limit GenX emissions, conduct additional testing and pay a penalty assessed last year. 

In October, the chemical giant was issued a $305,611 fine for violating terms of a consent agreement with the state. DAQ found the company exceeded its agreed-upon emissions limit of GenX, an unregulated compound part of the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) family of so-called “forever chemicals.”

DEQ, Chemours, and Cape Fear River Watch entered into a much-criticized consent agreement in 2019 in which the company agreed to a 99% reduction in its GenX emissions. 

Two years prior, Chemours had released 2,307 pounds of the compound into the air. In July, the company reported a 12-month rolling total of more than 32 pounds released, in excess of the permitted 23-pound ceiling. 

The Division of Air Quality also determined Chemours was improperly operating a carbon absorber designed to capture fugitive emissions. 

“DEQ is holding Chemours accountable and ensuring they meet the requirements of their permit at all times,” DEQ Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser said in October. “They must uphold their obligations to reduce PFAS impacts to their neighbors in the community.”

The settlement requires Chemours to reduce GenX emissions from the carbon adsorber in the Vinyl Ethers North manufacturing area to no more than an average of 1 pound per month between May and September, according to a Department of Environmental Quality press release.

The chemical giant will also be required to take additional steps this year to reduce emissions, including the installation of new process and emission control equipment, and follow a rigorous schedule of stack tests to measure the carbon adsorber’s effectiveness. 

Chemours had also filed a petition to contest the fine. As part of the settlement, Chemours will pay the penalty in full, resolving both the civil penalty and the petition. — Chris Six

95-foot Ferris wheel becomes fixture on Carolina Beach oceanfront

Next week, Carolina Beach will become bedazzled by lights and the sounds of passengers boarding cars to get a bird’s eye view of Pleasure Island. An almost 100-foot Ferris wheel is being installed at 3 Carolina Beach Avenue South, near the Marriott.

The ride will double in size from previous years and operate weekends until Memorial Day and then daily through Labor Day. While most carnival rides pack up until the next tourist season, the Ferris wheel will be a mainstay, operating through November and possibly utilized for special occasions and holidays.

It will be the first time a permanent ride has been near the boardwalk since the late ‘70s.

“Sea Shore Amusement Park ended operations on the south end of the boardwalk in 1978. It included a carousel, Ferris wheel, The Moon Rocket, Bubble Bounce, Merry Mixer, Tilt-A-Whirl, Little Dipper and SkyPlane,” according to town spokesperson Sheila Nicholson.

The amusement rides then moved to North Lake Park Boulevard and opened as Jubilee Park until closing in 2004. From 2009 until 2019, Mergerle’s Magic and Hildebrand Rides brought in carnival rides and fun houses near the boardwalk, the Island Gazette reported last year. 

When Covid-19 hit in 2020, the carnival paused but returned in 2021. The Ferris wheel has been operated on land owned by Ken Cofer of Carolina Beach Land Holdings, LLC, for over a decade.

In a special meeting called Mar. 31, the mayor and town council discussed renting an adjacent lot to Cofer to make room for the bigger structure. Its addition has been in the works for the better part of a year, they confirmed.

“There’s been backdoor conversations about this Ferris wheel for six, eight months, so it’s actually good to see that it’s coming to fruition,” Mayor Pro Tem Jay Healy said.  

The town purchased the lot in 2019 for $337,500, county property records show. Mayor Lynn Barbee explained in the meeting how they came up with its leasing price, below market value: Cofer rented nearby land to the town for photo props a few years back and charged $400 a month. The mayor said it seemed like a fair bargain in return.

The requirements of the lease include adding six tables and a minimum of two photo props in preserving its public space. Carolina Beach Land Holdings, LLC also will cover costs of all permitting and be responsible for inspections, locally and through the state.

“I think it’s a great thing for Carolina Beach,” Healy added. “If this is successful — that it continues for years to come — I mean, it’s gonna be nice to have an attraction down there. That makes this more of a year-round community, without a doubt, and gives people a reason to come down here.”

Council passed the motion to allow the town manager to enter the year lease agreement with Carolina Beach Holdings LLC.

Spokesperson Nicholson confirmed the wheel can be removed in the event of a hurricane or storm. — Shea Carver

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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