Blockade Runner violates ordinance

by Kelly Corbett
Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Wrightsville Beach Planning Board is looking deeper into two issues that will affect the Blockade Runner Beach Resort and a few other commercial properties on the beach strand.

The first old business agenda item for the board on Tuesday, Dec. 3, dates to August, with a petition from Mary Baggett, co-owner of the Blockade Runner, to amend ocean-related business activities to allow beachfront storage of beach chairs and umbrellas.

Currently, the Blockade Runner is in violation of the ordinance, storing 120 chairs on the beach overnight during the on-season. The hotel has not been sent a letter or fined.

Planning and parks director Tony Wilson said town staff does not feel that the BRBR is grandfathered in, but Nicholas Montoya, the resort’s general manager, said the hotel has rented beach chairs since the 70s. 

Toward the end of the discussion, members began questioning whether the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission would legally allow the text amendment addition due to possible sea turtle endangerment.

The Recovery Plan for the Northwest Atlantic Population of the Loggerhead Sea Turtle Action 2225 prohibits recreational equipment on nesting beaches at night. Nancy Fahey, Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project Coordinator, wrote a letter in opposition to the text amendment.

The planning board motioned unanimously for town staff to ask town attorney John Wessel to vett the issue before the item is brought back to the board in January.

Montoya said hotel staff has been in contact with Fahey about other options, like putting mesh around chair stacks, setting chairs upright or raising the chairs off the sand.

The text amendment would allow hotels adjacent to the beachfront and within C-4 zoning to store chairs and umbrellas on the beachfront landward of the high water line and emergency travel lane from April 1 to Oct. 31. Further requirements would be that chairs and umbrellas are only provided for hotel guests; the hotel is legally permitted to conduct beachfront business activities; and the town reserves the right to require removal of the chairs and umbrellas from the beachfront at any time.

During the second agenda item, members who were absent from the November meeting posed questions about shore zone activities along Waynick Boulevard.

The planning board will create a list of accepted activities along Banks Channel that would affect the Blockade Runner, the Carolina Yacht Club and Hanover Seaside Club during upcoming meetings.

“So really with the commercial aspect of this we’re talking about the Blockade Runner,” vice chairman Ace Cofer verified with Wilson.

Chairman Dale Walker said he would like an inventory to see a baseline of activities, citing the unexpected popularity of paddleboarding. 

Baggett said since the Blockade Runner opened in 1964, there has been activity on the shore zone.

“I want to be a good neighbor,” Baggett said. “… Our shore zone is very important to us. We feel like it’s a tremendous amenity to our guests.”

While not included as a possible restriction in the agenda item, Rev. Henry Parsley, Jr., who lives in Birmingham, Ala., and has family properties at 222 and 224 South Lumina Avenue next to the Pelican Pier, mentioned the Blockade Runner’s recent purchase of the pier and signs advertising transient usage.

“We rigorously oppose this expanded commercial use of this pier, because it is an R-2 zone,” Parsley said. 

Member Hank Miller III asked about the residential zones near the commercial zones in question earlier in the meeting, pointing out the Pelican Pier.

“I asked that question for a reason, but that’s not what we’re discussing,” Miller said.

Wilson said in the next 30 to 60 days, Wessel and town manager Tim Owens would be addressing that issue.


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