Resolution approved for Sprunt-Willetts easements
As New Hanover County waited for a decision from the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen concerning the purchase of a space in the county’s Emergency Operations Center following the board’s Sept. 13 meeting, the board postponed voting on the resolution until its Oct. 11 meeting pending learning more about details of a long-term lease agreement.
During the board’s discussion, Alderman Darryl Mills said the biggest factor influencing his thinking about the EOC was the response he received from past members of the board about why they voted against buying into the EOC. From their responses, Mills said the consensus was that it was voted down because those former board members never thought the town was -disadvantaged by not having a room in the EOC. After mentioning his approval of using the town’s current emergency center on the second floor of the First Citizens Bank building on Eastwood Road, just more than a mile away from Town Hall, Mills said there was no way to know if the county’s EOC on Government Center Drive, located more than 4 miles away off Racine Drive, would not be impaired as well in a major storm event.
“If a horrendous storm came through there is no guarantee that that building will not be seriously impaired,” Mills said. “Then we will have handed over $70,000 and nothing to show for it.”
Alderman Elizabeth King said she would have difficulty paying $70,000 for something the town may not need.
“I’m having a hard time justifying spending that money for a storm that may or may not happen,” King said.
Mayor Pro Tem Susan Collins also resisted paying the lump sum of $70,000, citing that the town provided funding for the construction of the county’s government center and because the town had not budgeted for this expenditure.
In response to its comments, town manager Bob Simpson reminded the board that it could not occupy the First Citizens Bank building if the hurricane exceeded a Category 2 level. If town leaders did not have any other place to meet in such a storm event, the town’s government would cease to exist until the island was reopened.
“At some point, if there is a Category 3 storm or more, you are going to have to tell people, ‘folks go home, batten down the hatches, government ceases to exist,’” Simpson said. “That is what you are confronted with here tonight. If you occupy [First Citizens Bank] you are putting yourselves and this staff in harm’s way.”
Mayor David Cignotti and Alderman Bill Sisson supported town staff’s recommendation to pay the one-time fee for the rights to the EOC space, and Sisson warned against not planning for the worst.
“The old saying of you need to plan for the worst and hope for the best really applies to these situations because you don’t know what is going to come at you,” Sisson said. “I think it is better to be prudent than hope that everything is going to be OK forever.”
Earlier in the meeting, the board voted favorably to granting a perpetual easement for the stairs and chimney on the north side of the c. 1937 Sprunt-Willetts Cottage, which extends 6 feet into the Charlotte Street right of way on the west side of North Lumina Avenue.
The application for granting the permanent easement was being pursued by the property’s potential buyers because they plan to complete a major restoration of the cottage if the easement was granted.
Cignotti, Sisson and Mills expressed concerns about setting a precedent the board may not uphold when other requests for perpetual easements arise; however, it was the historical significance of the 75-year old home and the uniqueness of the case that caused the board to vote in favor of the resolution.
If the easement was not granted the buyers had no interest in purchasing the historically designated home because they said moving the staircase and chimney would totally change the appearance of the home, and possibly jeopardize the historic designation and their intentions to pursue a national historic designation.
The total size of the easement is 6 feet wide by 17 feet long. The passage of the resolution begins the process of advertising the resolution for a minimum of 10 days and the board will approve a final draft of the easement agreement at a special meeting on Sept. 27.
The board also approved proposed improvements to the cul-de-sac at the end of Trent Court. As requested by Mark and Deborah Mitchell, and Rob and Susan Alexander — the owners of lots 10 and 13, respectively, at the end of Trent Court — water, sewer and empty conduit lines will be installed to provide service to lot 13 and will be paid for by the property owners. The requested paving of that street end will be added to the town’s FY 2013-2014 budget.
Another item deferred until the FY 2013-2014 budget is the Harbor Island Garden Club’s proposal to hire an outside contractor to manage the town’s holiday light decorations and to change the color of the lights in the trees back to all white lights. Upon reviewing the project in further detail, Cindy Jupp, the club’s public relations officer, said the project cost exceeded what was initially thought. The club felt that project funding was within the scope of the county’s Tourism Development Agency, Jupp said. Needing more time to plan the project, the club will reconsider its proposal for the 2013 holiday season.