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May 8, 2012
Oriental’s Parks and Recreation Committee is asking Town Manager Bob Maxbauer to answer questions it has about the harbor area land swap the Town Board is poised to approve. Parks & Rec has drawn up a list of questions it wants answered at its meeting on Wednesday morning, May 9.Parks & Rec’s On-Again, Off-Again Role
A year ago, the Town had tasked the Parks and Rec Committee to develop plans for a new Town Dock in the harbor off of the end of South Avenue, where the Town has a right of way to the water’s edge. (It’s the land the Town spent $25,000 in a court battle to establish that the town did control that land.)Parks and Rec Committee members Regina Dubiel, Jim Edwards, Jane Olson and Sue Magnuson at the May 2 meeting. They were asking questions of Town Board members Larry Summers and Barbara Venturi who voted for the land swap. At right are Oriental residents Marshall Tyler and Art Tierney who also had questions about the deal. The Parks and Rec Committee drew up a longer list of questions it is asking the Town Manager to answer at its May 9 meeting.
The estimated cost of building the dock there was $27,000, which was to come out of the $150,000 waterfront improvement fund the Town has built up over the years from occupancy tax money. Dredging was also needed at the site and that was thought to bring the cost of the project up to $55,000. The Town sought a grant for the dredging. By going to those two sources, use of Oriental taxpayer dollars would be limited.
Then this winter, the Town announced it was considering giving up that South Avenue right-of-way and all of Avenue A’s right-of-way. It was to be part of a land swap with Chris Fulcher who owns much land on that side of the lower harbor. Within weeks, and with no public hearing over the change in plans, the Town Board in February gave preliminary approval to the deal. It did not consult the Parks and Rec Committee.
As the proposal now stands, Mr. Fulcher would give the town a 4500 square foot lot next to the Oriental Marina’s fuel dock and Toucan restaurant. The bulkheaded lot includes a dock that Town officials touted could be made ready sooner for transient boaters than building one from scratch. (In recent weeks, however, they’ve said it may have to be replaced, negating the touted savings.) On the land, the Town Manager Bob Maxbauer said the Town could build restrooms, something not possible on the South Avenue right of way.
To get that 4,500 square foot lot and 55 feet of harborfront, dock and ability to build bathrooms, the Town would give up more than three times as much property. It would relinquish 80 feet of harborfront and 13,900 square feet of right of way at South Avenue and all of Avenue A.
The deal would give Mr. Fulcher a continuous sweep of riverfront and harborfront land from Wall Street, around the point where his roofless building has stood for a decade, past South Avenue to the edge of the 4500 square feet he would give the town.
While it didn’t consult with the Parks and Rec Committee about the deal, the Town has now asked Parks and Rec to come up with plans for the dock in the lot the town would get from Fulcher.
Before it tucked in to that job, the Parks and Rec Committee said it needed more information. At two meetings in recent weeks one overarching question has been whether the town was getting what it should in the deal.Land and Water Questions
At a field trip meeting to the harborfront in late April, Committee chair Jim Edwards noted that CAMA and other environmental setbacks restrict building in the first 35 and 50 feet from the water. He asked how much land on the site would be available for building the restroom facilities. The Town Manager said he did not know.Parks and Rec Committee members Regina Dubiel and Jim Edwards with Town Commissioner Larry Summers and Town Manager Bob Maxbauer. The Parks and Rec Committee’s meeting on April 24 was held at the lot and near the dock that Chris Fulcher would give to the town. In the land swap, the town would give three times as much land.
At a May 2 meeting of the Parks and Rec Committee attention turned to the water. Some from the public and on the committee questioned whether 22 feet of water on one side of the dock and 26 feet on the other would allow enough room for visiting boats to maneuver.
The proposed deal includes a waiver that would undo the standard 15 foot riparian buffer that keeps neighbors from building docks right on their property line in the water. With the waiver, Mr. Fulcher could install pilings or another hard structure right along the property line in the water. A question arose over how constricting that might be for the visiting boats the town wants to attract.
Even without the waiver, a question arose over whether Mr. Fulcher could dock one of his trawlers or work boats right up to edge of the riparian area the Town would get. In either instance, that would leave 22 feet of maneuvering room for visiting boats to get to the dock.Town Commissioners Larry Summers (in purple shirt)and Barbara Venturi attend the May 2 Parks and Rec Committee meeting at the First Baptist Church. (Town meetings have been held there in the wake of Hurricane Irene’s damage to Town Hall.)
Jim Edwards asked how catamarans — with their wider beams — could maneuver in such confines. To that, Commissioner Larry Summers — who has praised the land swap as a boost to the town’s reputation among boaters — said the dock may not accommodate all boats.
As the questions mounted, Parks and Recreation Committee member Jane Olson asked if many of the concerns about maneuverability would evaporate if the Town had gotten two lots and two docks from Mr. Fulcher — that is, all of the land and docks and water rights between South Avenue and the Oriental Marina’s fuel dock. Around the table, there was agreement that that would have eased a lot of concerns about what could be done in the water and on the land.
Another question from several members of the Parks and Rec Committee: how much were the Town’s rights of way at Avenue A and South Avenue worth to Mr. Fulcher. They are the final pieces in giving him a continuous stretch of riverfront and harborfront property from Wall Street to the lot the town would get.
The Town did not have a real estate appraisal done of thoe 13,900 square feet, nor did it assess how much those pieces of land would add to the value of Mr. Fulcher’s property. Town Manager Maxbauer and Commissioner Summers have repeatedly said the right of way was worth nothing to the town. It was from that position that the negotiations were carried out.
As it had more questions than it was getting answers, the Parks and Recreation Committee drew up a list of questions and this past weekend sent them to the Town Board, the Mayor and Town Manager. The Parks and Recreation Committee has asked Town Manager Maxbauaer to come to its meeting Wednesday May 9 at 8a at Oriental’s First Baptist Church and answer questions it has compiled. To view the questions, click here.
The meeting comes a day after Oriental’s Town Board is to meet to go over the proposal. The Town Board — meeting at noon on Tuesday May 8 at the church — could give its final approval to the deal then. Before the deal could go through, the Town would have to hold a public hearing on the issue of abandoning the rights of way.