CAPE CARTERET — Town commissioners voted 4-1 Monday night to wait at least until their Monday, Dec. 7 meeting to decide whether to approve a financing plan to spend $250,000 to buy the Lejeune Road landing site of the old ferry that ran between Cape Carteret and Emerald Isle.
The board acted after a public hearing, held simultaneously in town hall and on GoToMeeting, during its regular monthly meeting.
Speakers from the Bayshore Park neighborhood in which Lejeune Road is located all opposed the plan to buy the land, saying it was too small for a boat launch, too close to a private neighborhood boat launch on the opposite side of the canal, too expensive and would increase traffic in the neighborhood.
Neighborhood resident Wayne Truax gave the board a petition he said was signed by about 140 people who oppose the project.
Residents cited what they said are more pressing needs in the town and in the Bayshore area, such as street repairs and drainage improvements.
Curt Sheaffer, who said he was a 12-year, full-time resident of the area, said, “We don’t need another boat ramp in our small community. It will increase traffic in a … residential area.”
He and others said the town’s proposal caught them off guard when the public hearing was announced on the town website about a week ago.
“We weren’t consulted about this,” Mr. Sheaffer said.
Charlie Evans, a former town commissioner who lives on the other side of town, said holding a public hearing on the financing plan before the board had even officially agreed to purchase the property was “putting the cart before the horse.”
He predicted that if the deal went through, residents would face a property tax increase to pay for it and said the town couldn’t afford the purchase.
According to town officials, the plan is to pay the owner, South by West LLC, $250,950 through five equal annual payments at an interest rate of 2.75%. Dennis Del Mauro of Cape Carteret is the LLC’s registered agent. It had been discussed in several closed sessions of the commission in recent months, as allowed by state statutes.
The town’s concept is to use the land as a park, likely with a boat ramp and/or a kayak launch.
The board could have voted on the financing plan as early as Wednesday or Thursday, under state statues.
Commissioner Mike King was the sole opposition to Commissioner Steve Martin’s motion to wait until December to vote.
Mr. King said his plan was not to immediately build a boat ramp if the town buys the property, but he called it an opportunity to obtain land for a ramp and park if the town’s lease for boat ramp property at the end of Manatee Street is canceled by the owner Paxon Holz. That lease, he said last week, can be canceled with 30 days’ notice, although it runs through 2031.
But Mr. Martin said the town staff hasn’t done the necessary “due diligence” work to determine if the property is truly useable for the potential intended purposes.
The town, he said, doesn’t even know if it could obtain the necessary state permits, and he added that he hasn’t even seen an appraisal of the property or an environmental assessment.
Commissioners Jim Nalitz, Jeff Waters and Don Miller voted with Mr. Martin.
Mr. Del Mauro last week told the newspaper he believes town ownership is the highest and best use for the property.
“It’s got deep water access all the way from the end of the street, where the ferry used to come in, to the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway). I also have a septic tank permit for it,” he said. The county plans to dredge that channel next year.
Mr. Del Mauro also mentioned the historic nature of the land. In the 1950s, the original developer of the town, W.B. McLean, father of Ms. Holz, obtained a ferry that ran from the site to Emerald Isle. Before the Langston bridge was built, it was the primary means of access to western Bogue Banks from the western Carteret County mainland.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.