forecast weather station wind gauge
Packed Meeting Hears Unhappy Public
Most Oppose, Some For Fulcher Trawler Paint Yard
July 31, 2017

he Planning Board held a specially-called meeting on Friday to discuss their recommendations for Chris Fulcher’s boatyard project in the harbor. The public was invited to give their comments and concerns. More than 60 people attended. A quarter of the attendees spoke – the overwhelming majority opposed the project called Fulcher Point.

The Public Comments at Town Hall
An uncommon sight: a full house at a Planning Board meeting.

Planning Board Vice Chair Cecily Lohmar made it clear that this meeting was strictly for the purpose of helping the Town Board construct their response to CAMA as the adjacent property owner to Fulcher Point. The meeting was called on short notice.

A letter to the town from Dennis Fornes, working for the Fulcher Point project, advised that the boat wash, which was to be located outside of the current building, would be deleted from the project entirely. Without the boat wash, the town would no longer require an SUP. The SUP imposed several conditions including the currently roofless building be enclosed, an air filtration system be installed for any sandblasting or painting that occurred inside, and a puout station be constructed to handle waste water from the boat wash. An earlier revision, in June, had changed the static roof to a retractable one. This prompted concerns for environmental safety if the roof were left open during sandblasting or painting of trawlers.

The public has been vocal in their concerns about that revision, particularly as the public comment period from CAMA was not properly announced in the local paper or on the property at Fulcher’s Point as CAMA requires.

The Public Comments at Town Hall
Planning Board members Cecily Lohmar and Dick Flaherty.

Another Potential Revision to Fulcher Point Plans
Between the announcement of the public meeting on Tuesday and noon on Friday, Town Manager Miller said she spoke with CAMA again and was told that Fulcher’s representatives were “looking at another revision”. She said the town is attempting to respond to the last revision and there may be another one in the works.

“My personal frustration with this is every time we get ready to respond, the project changes and the target moves,” Miller said. Also, in her comments to the crowd, she said that she told a CAMA official, “‘if you are going to change this project again, we are going to need additional response time.‘” It is unclear if that additional response time will be granted or if the public will receive notice.

Public Comments
More than 15 spoke against the project and 3 spoke in favor of the project or Chris Fulcher himself. The majority of attendees were not in favor of the project. Those speakers voiced concerns about the changing plans, lack of environmental protections, and Fulcher’s history of disregard for local and state laws.

  • Frank Roe commented on Chris Fulcher’s character. “Meet with him and talk with him. You’ll find he’s a reasonable man. He is a business man. He does not want to spoil the environment, he does not want to spoil the harbor, but he is a business man and wants to run his business. I find him to have the highest personal integrity.”
  • Carol Small said, “If he had an enclosed building with a roof on it and was doing all the work inside with a ventilation system, it would be a boon because then we wouldn’t have this environmental concern.” She asks that he and his business be held to the same standards as others.
  • Commissioner David White wanted the statement from the Town to, “ask that CAMA enforce the best practices that have been put together by the DEQ.”
  • Ted Mead said, “When I used to go in the shipyard, the first thing I did was put earplugs in… Mr. Fulcher may be a neat guy and is obviously a businessman, but I think he should take his ship maintenance facility, which it is going to be, somewhere else.” The crowd applauded his statements.
The Public Comments at Town Hall
Art Tierney addresses the crowd.
  • Gordon Pickett said, “Ask CAMA for Chris Fulcher to find another place for his boat wash. For CAMA, are you applying those same level of regulations to they operation, because if you don’t have a wash pan, where is the runoff for the boat wash going to go? If you don’t have an enclosed space, where is the particulate when you sand blast going to go? It’s going to go to an already overstressed harbor. Just tell them it’s not a good idea. He needs to locate this operation in a different place.”
  • Jennifer Roe, asking to be the last to speak, said, “In building, people change their mind for what they want on a plan.” She cited her renovations of a house on South Avenue as a simplified example. She also advocated that all citizens and businesses be treated equally in the town and that there had been a similar business in that same spot since the 1800s. “It’s not a museum, it’s a working community. We should look at the GMO, the rules. This should not be a personal opinion.” She said CAMA would do their job and “we should look at things from all points of view and not with blinders because it may be you or me next time, asking for these same considerations”.
  • Mac Ernest argued the GMO states new applications and permits should be required for the Fulcher project as the original design has changed. Town Manager Miller said the land use has not changed and the Town cannot force a new LUP. Vice Chair Lohmar said they would revisit the ordinance.
  • Bob Arrington said, “We don’t know what we’re commenting on. We do not have a revised plan from him. We do not have a clear picture of what he’s doing … How can the public give you comment on what to advise CAMA when we don’t know anything?”
  • David Cox said the project would encroach upon and obstruct easement rights of non-waterfront property at the location of the development.
The Public Comments at Town Hall
Joann Reid speaks on behalf of Chris Fulcher. Behind her, Nic Blayney, Oriental’s newest police officer. He will be sworn in August 1st at the Town Meeting.
  • Joann Reid, speaking on behalf of Chris Fulcher, said, “He follows rules.” The crowd loudly disagreed with her and Vice Chair Lohmar had to quiet the room. Reid continued, “I’m the minority, I know that. But if you met him, you’d be his friend … Remember he is paying a lot of taxes for us in this town.” Art Tierney refuted the tax claim. “He has a number of fishing boats or ships. They are not registered here. He doesn’t pay town tax or CAMA tax, so we lose that.” Reid urged the crowd to, “please take that into consideration when you are listening to maybe untruths, some sorta facts.”
  • Toni Leavitt of the Tree Board said Fulcher ignored the ordinances requiring trees and green spaces in parking lots, putting only gravel to cover the corner lot at South Avenue and Wall Street. Vehicles have been seen parked there though Fulcher maintains the graveled lot is not a parking lot. “But what else is that?,” Leavitt asked..“He has completely ignored the Tree Board ordinance which has been put before him.”
  • Mary Duffie, whose late husband was on the Planning Board, said, “Chris can’t be trusted to follow the rules because it’s obvious that he doesn’t.”
  • Both George Pickett and Art Tierney argued that Oriental is a fishing village and should remain that way. Fulcher should not be able to pull boats out of the water in the harbor. Fulcher Point then becomes a boatyard that does commercial work, not just for his own fleet, but for other fishing boats as well.

Frustration With Town Governance’s Inaction
Rich Quinn said, “what he’s doing is illegal today … I think he should be shut down for what he’s doing today. If he sandblasts one more time out there…he should be shut down today.” Vice Chair Lohmar responded, “That would not be something, if it’s in the water, we don’t regulate that, or we can’t oversee that.” Quinn maintains that he has seen Fulcher’s workers sandblasting on the land on several occasions while Quinn was kayaking by.

Bob Arrington and many others expressed frustration with the lack of response from Oriental’s government to the violations at Fulcher’s property, past and present. Though neither water or air quality fall within the purview of the town, the Town should take the initiative to call in proper authorities. Arrington said, “If the Planning Board is here to get the public comment and you don’t get a clear sense of what this town wants in that harbor and make a recommendation consistent with that wish to the Town Council, and then on to CAMA, shame on this town’s governance.”

Concerns of the Planning Board
After public comments were closed, the board members discussed their concerns. Vice Chair Lohmar added that there have been other, documented complaints over the years that show a pattern of behavior of doing as he pleases. She added, “How can you do what you say you’re going to do [boat maintenance facility] and not do a boat wash? It doesn’t compute. And that’s the issue.”

Board member Bonnie Knapp reminded the crowd that the Town was crafting their response to CAMA as an adjacent property owner, but that they should also send individual letters of support or concern to CAMA as well. “Please do not think this town should be the only one commenting. Everyone here that spoke, for or against, please send your comments to CAMA. What’s important is that it is reiterated to show that it’s not just one person or one point of view from the Town. Everyone here who thought it important to come and talk should find it important enough to take pen to paper, for or against.”

You can send your letters to CAMA at the following address:
The deadline for public comment on the project is August 14th.

Braxton C. Davis,
Director, Division of Coastal Management,
400 Commerce Avenue,
Morehead City, N.C. 28557

Posted Monday July 31, 2017 by Allison DeWeese

Share this page: emailEmail