CAPE CARTERET — Town commissioners will hold a public hearing Monday on a somewhat controversial plan to spend about $250,000 to buy the landing site of the old ferry that ran between Cape Carteret and Emerald Isle before the B. Cameron Langston Bridge was built.
The hearing will be during the board’s monthly meeting at 6 p.m. and be conducted on GoToMeeting.
The property is in the Bayshore Park area of town at the end of Lejeune Road, which runs south to Bogue Sound from Highway 24.
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%. The N.C. Secretary of State’s office lists Dennis Del Mauro of Cape Carteret as the LLC’s registered agent.
The town’s concept is to use the land as a park, likely with a boat ramp and/or a kayak launch.
Although some Bayshore Park residents have started a petition to oppose the purchase – they’re chiefly concerned with increased traffic, the cost and attracting non-residents – Mr. Del Mauro said he has given residents several opportunities to purchase the 3/4-acre tract in the last seven or eight years.
“They never did,” he said. “I told them they could get a consortium to buy it, but they didn’t. And then, two days after I reached a verbal agreement with the town, (one resident) called and said they wanted to buy it.”
Mr. Del Mauro said he wouldn’t go back on his verbal commitment to the town.
“It’s not really about the money,” he said. “This is a waterfront community, but the town doesn’t own any waterfront property.”
Cape Carteret has parks at the end of some of the streets that lead to Bogue Sound and has a public boat ramp, which residents can use for an annual fee, at the end of Manatee Street. However, all of those waterfront properties are leased from private owners.
“I didn’t want to sell this for residential development,” Mr. Del Mauro said. “I think this 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.”
The county plans to dredge the 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, obtained a ferry that ran from the site to Emerald Isle. Before the high-rise bridge was built, it was the primary means of access to western Bogue Banks from the western Carteret County mainland.
Commissioners have discussed the purchase several times in closed sessions in recent months.
Commissioner Mike King said Monday he thinks it’s a great idea, in part because the town’s lease of the Manatee Street boat ramp can be canceled with 30 days’ notice. He envisions limiting the use of any boat ramp on the property to a specific number of permits to help alleviate residents’ concerns.
However, Commissioner Steve Martin, who lives in Bayshore Park, said Monday he opposes the plan, especially holding a public hearing to discuss financing before the board has even voted to agree to the purchase.
“Everybody knows I’m for water access – I’m the access commissioner,” he said.
But he said there’s another reason the idea is problematic: Bayshore residents already have a private boat ramp for their own use, just across the canal from the Old Ferry property.
“It’s not about ownership,” he said of his opposition. “It’s about proximity. There’s no way it can work having two boat ramps in the same canal that close together.”
A town ramp would essentially compete with, and perhaps undercut, the fees Bayshore Park’s “perfectly fine” private ramp takes in, he said.
In addition, Mr. Martin said discussing financing of a purchase before the town obtains a state Coastal Area Management Act permit to improve the property is “ludicrous.”
The public can provide written comments prior to the meeting or within 24 hours after the public hearing by submitting the comments to the town clerk at 102 Dolphin St. or via email to email@example.com.
The public can provide verbal comments by accessing the meeting at gotomeet.me/TOCC/board-of-commissioners-meeting or by calling 1-646749-3122 and entering access code 331-708-837 when prompted.
The board can’t vote to approve the financing agreement Monday night because of a state law that requires a delay of at least 24 hours before voting on items discussed in a public hearing held at an electronic meeting.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.