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Town Board Retreat Recap: The Harbor
Repairs, Hodges Street Raising, Big Boats and Small Boats
February 27, 2013
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New Town Dock – $10,000 for Phase One At Fulcher Lot

Mayor Bill Sage said he thought getting a new “usable Town Dock” was a “priority.” (In the land swap proposed last year, the Town would give up 75 feet of the Town’s harborfront Right of Way at South Avenue in exchange for a nearby Chris Fulcher lot with about 20 feet less of harborfront, and a series of creosoted pilings. The swap has been on hold pending a lawsuit; there was not much discussion about it by the Board at the retreat).

Touted as a cheaper alternative to building a longer dock for $24,000 off of South Avenue, it emerged that the dock off the Fulcher land would cost the Town, too. At the retreat, Commissioner Summers spoke of having to develop the creosoted dock in phases.

A “quick dock” Summers said, could be built for $10,000. Then after that, he said, the Town could “apply for grants” No mention was made of what the subsequent phases of that Town Dock on the Fulcher site would cost.

Showers and Restrooms As Attractant

Planning Board member David White said that “the one thing that attracts transient boaters is a bathroom.” He said he thought more would come to town if such facilities were built as part of a new Town Dock, and “once word gets around that Oriental has nice restrooms and showers and a pump out.” (Some private marina owners have objected to the Town offering something more than a place to tie up a boat and in effect competing with their businesses.) No cost estimates on construction and maintenance of such facilities have been put forward.

Raising Hodges Street At The Harbor

Perhaps the biggest project concerning the harbor that was discussed at the retreat was the possibility of raising flood-prone Hodges Street about 4-5 feet just to the west of the Town Dock area. In presenting his plan and slides to the Board, the Town Manager Bob Maxbauer asked them to envision the road at its highest being about where the top of a car parked on the side would be now.

hodges street flooding
A 2012 photo of Hodges Street flooding even before the water rises over the wharf at left. The low point in the street is about where a culvert runs under the asphalt between the harbor at left and the Duck Pond (not visible) at right. The possible project would have a causeway bridge built at least four feet higher than the current road.

In addition to elevating the street, the proposal laid out by Maxbauer would put a 20-30 foot wide opening between the Duck Pond and the Harbor. That would make it wide enough, and depending on the tide, tall enough, for kayakers and others to paddle from one body of water to the other. (The harbor and Duck Pond are now separated by an asphalt street that floods many times in a year.)

Commissioner Michelle Bessette asked if that box culvert opening wouldn’t affect the properties of people living along the Duck Pond. Maxbauer answered that those areas already see flooding when Hodges Street floods, but he did allow that the wider opening between the Harbor and Duck Pond (up to ten times wider than it is now) could mean the water travelled in to the Duck Pond with greater velocity. The environmental impact was something for civil engineers to work out, Maxbauer said. He said that the Army Corps of Engineers would be involved.

As for The Bean, the coffeehouse alongside the Duck Pond, Maxbauer said raising the road there would “improve ingress and egress to The Bean” as there would be fewer steps to climb. Marsha Palpham asked how the Town Dock would be affected. Maxbauer said it would remain where it was and remain accessible via the existing wharf. Meanwhile, above that area, on what was being variously called a “bridge” or “causeway” Maxbauer said park benches could be placed on the sidewalks, providing a place to sit and look out on the harbor on one side and the Duck Pond on the other.

No cost estimate was provided.

Main Street Closing

There was some related talk about the idea of closing Main Street at the Duck Pond and ripping up the asphalt so that the wider Lower Duck Pond connected with the upper Duck Pond. Residents on Main Street had petitioned the Town a few years ago to do that because Main Street routinely flooded and vehicles made turns in to their yards, causing ruts. The street closure idea took root with some others beyond Main Street and a proposal emerged of building a foot bridge, perhaps Japanese in style, for walkers, runners and cyclists.

Commissioner Barbara Venturi said at the Saturday session of the retreat that as she understood it, the “only people that hate” that idea of closing Main and putting a pedestrian footbridge in are the postal workers who use the street for their route. Dee Sage, seated behind the table where the commissioners were meeting noted that closing Main Street would put “traffic down my street.” Sage, and her husband, Bill who is the Mayor, live one block away on Neuse Street which could become more traveled if Main were closed. Within the past two years, the Town Manager had Main Street asphalted higher at the Duck Pond to keep it from flooding.

No Public Access To Whittaker Creek

Larry Summers said he was surprised to recently realize that there was no public access to the waters of Whittaker Creek. They used to exist, he said, but the Town abandoned rights of way it had. Those lands now are part of two boat yards. Summers spoke favorably of making clear that the NW end of Hodges Street is a town right of way, offering access to Camp Creek. (About a half decade ago, the Town received a $24,000 grant to build a dock there, but never followed through.)

Boom

At a recent Town Board meeting, resident and Neuse RiverKeeper Creek Keeper Bill Hines asked the Town to purchase for $3,600 a boom that could be deployed to prevent oil and fuel spiills from spreading on the harbor (as happened with the trawler Lady Barbara sank in January.) There was a suggestion of using some of the Town’s Waterfront funds (accumulated from the 3% Occupancy Tax) to buy the boom. Larry Summers said that the area’s Southeastern Pamlico Volunteer Fire Department may also become involved. It was said that the boom could be stored at the fire station when not in use.

Harbor Plan

There was talk of developing a Harbor Plan, in to which some of the ideas about the Harbor might be incorporated.

Retreat 2013 proposed projects
A listing of potential projects put before the Town Board at the February 2013 retreat.

In upcoming reports, recaps from the retreat on projects to improve the water quality, to improve the Town’s marketing of itself. Also a review of the Town’s ordinances may be coming, and so may a first phase of a bike trail between the old village and the rec field at Straight and White Farm Roads.

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Posted Wednesday February 27, 2013 by Melinda Penkava


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