Crane on bridge

A crane sits at the site of the proposed Harkers Island replacement bridge Feb. 27. The project is being contested by several Down East property owners. (Clark Wright photo)

This article was corrected at 11:30 a.m. Monday. The article previously reported Hollis Batson, Carol Batson, Lawrence Baldwin and Elizabeth Baldwin filed for a temporary restraining order against the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission and the N.C. Department of Transportation. However, due to an oversight by the reporter, the article didn’t mention this was for an extension of an existing restraining order signed March 3 by Superior Court Judge Phyllis Gorham. It has also been updated with additional events which have occurred since the article was first posted.   

BEAUFORT — Several Down East Property owners received an extension to a restraining order against two state agencies working on utility lines for the proposed Harkers Island bridge replacement.

Hollis and Carol Batson, Lawrence and Elizabeth Baldwin and Baldwin-Batson Owners’ Association Inc. filed Feb. 28 with the Carteret County Clerk of Superior Court an application to extend a March 3 temporary restraining order, signed by Superior Court Judge Phyllis Gorham, against the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission and the N.C. Department of Transportation. After a hearing March 12, Superior Court Judge Charles Henry granted an extension of the existing restraining order until Monday. 

The restraining order is related to three petitions filed July 3, 2019, by the Batsons and Baldwins, the third of which they filed jointly as an owners’ association. The property owners are seeking a hearing before an administrative law judge to contest a major Coastal Area Management Act permit for NCDOT to build a replacement bridge from the mainland to Harkers Island.

According to the temporary restraining order, the intent of the order has been to stop ongoing utility line work at the site of the proposed replacement bridge. The Batsons and Baldwins have alleged the proposed replacement bridge will affect their riparian rights, as well as have negative environmental effects on nearby Jane Creek.

The application for the temporary restraining order said its scope  "is narrowly tailored to minimize any potential impacts to Respondent Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) and Respondent North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).”

According to the restraining order, the NCDOT has been restrained from performing any further site preparation, staging, constructing, building or developing utility line work on the Harkers Island end of the proposed bridge replacement. It hasn’t, however, prevented work from continuing on the mainland end of the project.

NCDOT hasn’t been required to remove staged equipment and materials, except for any that were on portions of the Baldwin-Batson subdivision or “upon any portions of accreted lands as defined within (the) Petitioners’ Judicial Review Petitions.”

Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email mike@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.

(7) comments

PINEYPOINTER

DINGBATTERS'Not from the Island.

morehood city res

maybe when the drawbridge stops working they would like a ferry again?

Ratherbefishing

So when the bridge deck caves in, from not being able to replace it and kills someone, you know who to blame.

rooster

Here we go again. Self centered dingbatters masquerading as treehuggers.

To all previous comments to this article- you guys are “spot on”.

To PINEYPOINTER: Baldwin and Batson- Yep, they are Dingbatters. What? No Willis, Rose, Guthrie, Lewis et cetera is seeking this restraining order? That is because the real Harkers Islanders know and understand well the vital importance of that bridge and not having their eye teeth nearly beaten out trying to get across it.

To morehead city res: This bunch probably does not even know that there ever was a ferry or even care for that matter.

To Ratherbefishing: Bingo! You hit the nail on the head and you obviously have crossed that bridge recently. It is in absolutely terrible shape and is getting to the point of being kind of scary in many places.

Inspections and engineering surveys have concluded without a doubt that the safe service life of the bridge has long since past. It does not take a structural engineer to see the deterioration right before your eyes or feel it in the steering wheel and the seat of your pants.

If you think it is bad bumping across the missing pavement and spalling concrete decking, you should see the underside (the part that holds the bridge up). It’s not good at all. Even with the previous attempts of spot repairs and “band aids” intended to shore up its structural integrity until a new bridge can be built, the girders and bent caps are in terrible shape.

I started my comment with “here we go again” simply because this is no more than obstructionists (whatever their stated motives) getting in the way of needed progress just as they did on the Beaufort and North River bridge projects.

Sometimes obstructionists are simply that (obstructionists for the sake of being obstructionists) but not always- and that takes me back to motives. With Beaufort it was “historical significance” (of the old dilapidated bridge), environmental devastation claims, the ruining of Beaufort’s picturesque skyline. With north river it was the CAMA “fish moratorium” and disturbing the minnows.

With the Harkers Island Bridge the filing of this restraining order has all the hallmarks of posturing for a money grab. With all this hiring of lawyers and the legal “mumbo-jumbo” of riparian rights and accreted lands et cetera, Baldwin-Batson are Obstructing to ensure they get handsomely rewarded and receive every nickel they can. Ok I get that. I don’t have to agree with it –but I get it.

In the meantime the delays will be a direct danger to public safety and the existing bridge will continue to fall apart. However, it is evident by their actions that Public Safety is NOT a motivation of Baldwin-Batson.

ICW

I write to set the record straight. I am the attorney representing Larry and Beth Baldwin, Hollis and Carol Batson, and their small owners association that they formed 20 years ago to help them manage and preserve their beautiful lands - and wetlands - on Harkers Island. FACT: Larry and Carol have lived in their home on the Island for close to 20 years. FACT: Larry Baldwin is an environmental expert with close to 40 years of experience helping other landowners, developers - and even NCDOT - get permits to engage in responsible, environmentally sound development. FACT: The Baldwins and the Batsons have NEVER argued that the existing bridge not be replaced, and have NEVER argued that it has to be moved so that it does not impact their private properties. NEVER . . . FACT: The restraining orders we won - twice - in court are very narrowly written to only stop NCDOT from making some - from our view - stupid mistakes in installing huge utility poles that, once in the ground, would make it nigh on impossible for NCDOT to alter its plans to help save the Janes Creek estuarine system, prevent greatly accelerated erosion that could threaten the County's small public beach on the west side of the existing bridge, preserve what's left of the remnant live oaks and other maritime forest like trees that serve as important visual and wind buffers, and provide important habitat, as well as to allow the Baldwins and Batsons to actually - for the first time in their four years of presenting information to a tone-deaf NCDOT and CRC - have the chance to present fact-based SOLUTIONS and MITIGATION MEASURES to an impartial administrative law judge. FACT: Larry Baldwin is a senior, current member of the Coastal Resources Commission! He had to make the difficult decision to, in effect, sue the very Commission on which he sits. He did not make that decision lightly. I too usually represent landowners and developers. I did not take on this case lightly. I took on this case because, once Larry, Beth, Hollis and Carol sat down with me and educated me on the FACTS, it became crystal clear that NCDOT and the CAMA regulators were ignoring serious issues, and that the only way to help improve this badly designed bridge relocation and replacement project was to formally challenge the Major Development CAMA Permit that was issued to NCDOT last May. FACT: Any issues of dollar compensation for taking the Baldwin's and Batson's lands will be settled in separate condemnation lawsuits, already filed by NCDOT - and I am not even representing these landowners in those strictly dollars and cents cases. Oh, one more FACT: NCDOT has NOT informed the County, or my clients, or me - or anyone else for that matter - that the current bridge cannot safely remain in operation for another year or two. Yes, it is in poor shape - just as hundreds of other bridges throughout North Carolina are; and yes, it WILL get replaced in the fairly near future.

So, bottom line: This permit appeal fight is NOT about money; and it is NOT about endangering the Island's link to the mainland [and don't forget, that link is used every single day by Larry and Beth Baldwin to get home] - instead, it is about preventing NCDOT in its pigheadedness from making serious mistakes that will seriously hurt the entire Janes Creek Estuary [which was closed to the taking of shellfish a couple of years ago]; will seriously hurt water quality and marine life quality of The Straits in this area; will seriously accelerate wave action and erosion, likely destroying Sparks Road and, over time, likely running erosion forces "around the corner" to take out the local public beach. Lastly, one does not need any engineering degrees - or any other degrees - to see that the current utility line configuration is just plain ridiculous - and more costly.

The Baldwins, the Batsons and myself - both professionally and personally [I am a fourth generation Tar Heel, with roots in Wake, Sampson and Craven counties] seek only to have an opportunity to present their very real impact concerns to a neutral decision maker, after which we are confident that this bridge project can be improved to better serve everyone - especially the watermen (and women) who struggle to make a living off of our common coastal and marine resources every day - and to provide the rest of us with delicious seafood, too.

Thanks for listening, as Paul Harvey used to say, "to the rest of the story."

RJ Buckster

I guess I would fall under the category of "Dingbatter" all good, I think the bridge would be a tremendous asset to Harkers Island. I do not think we want to go back to the days of needing a ferry to go back and forth to the mainland. If the current drawbridge has outlived its life expectancy then it is time for a new bridge to serve the people of Harkers Island and its visitors. Respectfully submitted.

Hiker

Sounds like the tactics folks tried to use against DOT when they were trying to get the Beaufort bypass going. All they did was delay the start date by several years and probably increased the cost

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