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SUNSET BEACH—A new boat ramp and bridge, bike and pedestrian trails and road improvements are at the top of town council’s planning list.
Following an executive session at a March 19 day-long planning retreat at Sea Trail, Mayor Ron Klein announced council has authorized town administrator Gary Parker to negotiate possible purchase of a 1.2-acre tract on Sunset Boulevard for a public boat ramp. The site is next to the Intracoastal Waterway, across the street from Twin Lakes Seafood Restaurant.
The property belonging to Sunset Bridge Partners has been appraised at $1.65 million, town administrator Gary Parker said this week.
Parker said what makes the site particularly attractive is it borders the North Carolina Department of Transportation right-of-way.
As construction of the 65-foot-tall Intracoastal Waterway bridge gets under way, Parker said plans call for 100 feet of the old pontoon bridge to be retained for a pier to run perpendicular to shore.
The town is pursuing a boat ramp to replace the privately owned one on the island that will be obliterated with the new bridge, Parker said.
“There is no public water access in Sunset Beach,” he said, noting ones at the ends of Beach and Seaside drives are inadequate and provide no public parking.
The town is proposing 30-plus parking spaces with a possible new ramp.
“The attractiveness of this particular proposal is the boat ramp would go in the footprint of the old quaint swing bridge,” Parker said. “And the new bridge right-of-way will be available for parking.”
Council revisited details about the new high-rise bridge, which will have two 11-foot travel lanes and two 5-foot emergency/bicycle lanes, and whether it would be possible to add a sidewalk with a railing.
Parker said there’s probably no time to add a sidewalk, but there is more time to tweak it.
“I get uncomfortable when there’s just a yellow line,” Councilman Len Steiner said.
In response to a question from councilman Ron Watts, assistant town manager Larry Crim said water access on the island will be lost “as soon as they get the detour in.”
Councilman Lou DeVita suggested the town post and broadcast “major milestones” associated with bridge construction in coming months. Parker added the town needs to do the same thing with new sewerage being orchestrated by Brunswick County.
Bike trails/pedestrian walkways
More and more, Parker said communities are moving toward construction of bike paths and greenways as part of their capital improvement programs.
“The more we do, the friendlier our community is for encouraging that kind of transportation,” he said.
Town building inspector Jeff Curtis said there had been one brainstorming meeting to try to plan connectivity with adjacent communities such as Calabash.
“There are difficulties in that,” he added.
DeVita suggested the town negotiate with contractors in securing land for such pathways.
Parker said town staff will be working with Don Eggert, transportation consultant with the Cape Fear Council of Governments “and pushing for an update and development of that plan. We’ll come back to the council after that process has produced an updated plan.”
While there is no official plan yet adopted, Parker said the town might want to plan for better roads “connectivity,” which has an impact on town services such as emergency vehicles and garbage collection.
Though cul-de-sacs aren’t conducive to that, Parker noted they are nonetheless prevalent in Sea Trail, and Steiner said they have strong appeal.
“It may be that you don’t make a change,” Parker said. “The biggest minus is traffic congestion.”
Council also discussed keeping the 1.5-mile-long Angels Trace Road open as a thoroughfare and working with Sea Trail and developers at Jaguar’s Lair to ensure it does.
“To let it go would be a terrible thing for this town,” Steiner said.
Facilities, dredging, recycling
Council discussed eventually providing a public facility and sidewalk between the parking lot and pier on the island.
Curtis said the location in the appropriate zoned area would be tight and would require a lot of planning.
The town, he said, might want to look at the possibility of buying land and adding public parking. He said it’s been an issue for years.
“I see this as a great opportunity, when sewer is in place, to be able to provide something nice,” he said.
Watts said the demand for public facilities is enormous since businesses on the island don’t allow people to use their restrooms.
Council also decided to poll residents about canal dredging and discussed options for securing a recycling center.
“Probably at this point the most realistic path is with the county,” Parker said of recycling efforts.