After delaying more than a year, Emerald Isle agrees to lease park property for well site

Emerald Isle commissioners Tuesday night adopted a resolution of intent to lease a site in the heavily wooded McLean-Spell Park, a portion of which is shown here adjacent to Archers Creek behind the town recreation center. (Brad Rich photo)

EMERALD ISLE — The Emerald Isle Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 Tuesday night to adopt a formal resolution of intent to lease property in McLean-Spell Park to Bogue Banks Water Corp. for a new well.

There was no public comment and very little discussion on the matter Tuesday.

The nearly 30-acre park, a natural area the town purchased for $3 million in 2017, is adjacent to Archers Creek and behind the police department and recreation center. Some residents and environmentalists voiced opposition to the 200-by-220-foot lease after the idea arose in February 2020, saying it would seriously fragment the maritime forest and be an eyesore to nearby homes.

Seola Hill, executive director of the water company, has said the new well is essential to supply a new reverse osmosis water treatment plant necessary in part because of saltwater intrusion into the Castle Hayne Aquifer, especially along the Coast Guard Road corridor. Opposition has faded in recent months.

In a public hearing in January, Joy Brownlow, an environmentalist and Sound Drive resident who strongly opposed the concept in February, seemed more concerned about making sure the water company makes good on its promise to put in two trees for each one it removes when the site is cleared.

The town bought the land with money from the U.S. Department of Defense, grants from two state agencies and an internal loan. The town has reserved the right to use up to 10 acres in the interior of the trail-crossed park for a dog park and possibly a ball field. Neither the DOD nor the state agencies have opposed the lease, according to town officials.

Town manager Matt Zapp said during the meeting the resolution sets a 30-day notice period, meaning the board can’t approve the lease at its next meeting Tuesday, June 8, but will have to wait until its Tuesday, July 13 meeting to do so.

The lease will be for $1,000 a month for the first year, increasing by 3% each subsequent year of the 20-year term. The company would have the option to automatically renew the lease for three additional 10-year terms.

 Commissioner Jim Normile hailed the plan and said the money from the lease “could be used for things associated with the park.”

The resolution of intent was necessary because such a long-term lease is considered a sale.

The planned reverse osmosis treatment plant would remove salt and other undesirable substances, such as Trihalomethanes, from water. The company, which also serves Indian Beach and Salter Path, already has one reverse osmosis plant in Emerald Isle.

Trihalomethanes are chemical compounds used as solvents or refrigerants and testing for them last spring revealed levels exceeded federal standards at one of two sample sites near Timber Trail, on the sound side of the eastern end of town.

The well in the park is supposed to be silent and odorless, with no generator on site. It will be screened from view and will be 60 feet off the nearest walking trail.

BBWC raised water rates last summer in an effort to slow what Mr. Hill called an alarming increase in water usage and the saltwater intrusion into the aquifer. In addition to implementing a tiered rate system – higher fees for increasing amounts of water used – BBWC began billing irrigation water at an even higher rate, $10 per 1,000 gallons, largely because it said irrigation had increased dramatically in recent years.


Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

(3) comments


Did you hold out for 'LESS' money? (if not Beaufort is still the champ of 'stupidder'!)


The solution to salt water intrusion is not to pull yet more water from the aquifer..

David Collins

Certainly that will not happen this time . Highly intelligent people have deemed it so . Definition of insanity , is it not ?

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