Staff photo by Joshua Curry
Skateboarders take advantage of a half-pipe skate ramp, located on Live Oak Drive, before it is removed from the location due to complaints from a property owner.
The 4-foot half-pipe at 116 Live Oak Drive is more than 15 years old. This summer, the structure became the object of a dispute.
Jim Mincher, who has lived on Live Oak Drive for 35 years, said he went to his neighbors and to the town of Wrightsville Beach for permission before he had the 12- by 25-foot half-pipe built by a professional ramp builder on the adjoining lot to his house.
“[Town officials] said it was fine. I didn’t need a permit,” Mincher said.
Margaret Collins, who acquired a house now used as a rental located directly behind the skate ramp, said in an email statement that she considered selling the Harbor Island house in the spring. Collins and her husband, Ed, were considering trading the house for a comparably priced waterfront condo.
“The listing agent said that the owners of the condo would agree to consider our house for a trade,” Collins wrote in the statement. “They looked at the house and in their considerations asked a friend of theirs that lived near our house, and that friend advised them against the purchase because of the noise from the skate ramp.”
On Nov. 26, the town sent a letter to Mincher stating he was required to move the structure from the vacant lot to comply with planning and zoning regulations. Section 7.2 Accessory Buildings/Structures does not permit an accessory structure without a principal structure on the same lot.
The lot is one of three contiguous lots owned by Mincher is located in a R-1 Residential Zoning District, which allows only single-family residential development.
When usage of the half-pipe was recorded at its highest, Mincher said the largest volume traffic in a one-month period was 25 hours.
“It’s for kids and friends,” he said. “It’s not open for the public.”
Tony Wilson, planning and parks director who is currently serving as interim town manager, said he cannot remember any complaints about the skate ramp.
When Collins came to the town with the complaint in July, the Collins and Mincher were asked to come to an agreement on their own.
“Unfortunately, they didn’t come together on this,” Wilson said.
The parties could not agree on terms for the structure to stay in its current location or a place for it to be moved.
To be in compliance with town planning regulations, the structure could legally be moved into the area directly behind Mincher’s house while also fulfilling rear and side yard setbacks.
Mincher said he did not consider moving the half-pipe an option, but that is now what he is being forced to do. The structure will likely be moved off of Wrightsville Beach.
“Everybody in this town has known this skate ramp is here,” he said. “It’s no secret.”
Mincher has 10 days to appeal or 90 days to move the structure.
“I’m forced to move it or get rid of it,” Mincher said. “The last thing I want to do is get in a legal battle. It’s really not fair. It’s not right.”
The nonrefundable appeal fee is $500 and the estimated cost to move the half-pipe is about $2,000.
Collins offered to give Mincher one year before moving the structure as part of an agreement.
“They always use that phrase ‘Grandfathered in,’” Mincher said about town officials granting exceptions in certain longstanding cases.
Wilson said he could not find any record of a conversation between Mincher and town officials at the time the skate ramp was built.
“Could he have talked to someone?” Wilson said. “He very well could have.”
As far as being grandfathered in, Wilson said he does not know what the thoughts were about the structure during that time period when Pat Woodard, also a south Harbor Island resident and Mincher’s neighbor, served as the town mayor.
In the days prior to the town having a town manager, Wilson served under former public works director John Nesbitt (1979-1999), who job description was broad.
In a StarNews article dated December 2, 2008, Nesbitt was describes as follows, “John Nesbitt was a big man whose booming laugh was often heard around Town Hall in Wrightsville Beach. In his 20 years as the town’s public works director, he had little patience for paperwork and bureaucracy. ‘Just do it,’ was his mantra.”