Live Blog: Beaufort Planning Board Reviews Compass Hotel Plans

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The Beacon will be live blogging public comment and the Compass Hotel discussion at tonight’s Beaufort Planning Board meeting, 6:30 at the old Beaufort Elepmentary cafeteria on Mulberry Street.

This live blog ended at 8:45 pm Monday, Sept. 30

8:33: old motion to approve with conditions has been amended to include the wording “we approve the site plan on conditions that NCDOT land is conveyed and marina is brought up to current LDO standards; and recommendations the Orange street driveway be entrance only, that lighting be shoeboxes or dark sky fixtures, that they get another opinion on stormwater flooding and impact on the neighborhood, and look at marina traffic related to parking.

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Meilheim seconds. Vote: Neve, Meilheim, Gillikin ayes; Merrill and Cartner nay, one member absent.

8:30: Neve said he thinks the board should focus on just planning issues as he feels it is becoming a political issue. The board of commissioners is elected and should make any political determination he says.

8:26: Owner Joe Thomas agrees that town could put condition that marina should be private use only. No businesses. At least one business runs out of the marina now. Gillikin said she didn’t mean for that to be shut down but that everything has been thought out.

8:21: Cartner moves to deny. Merrill seconds. Attorney said denial should pertain to specific LDO reasons. Cartner restates: moves to deny because: information and discussion are too confusing, too interactive, for him to understand it. He does not necessarily agree with the zoning question (HBD or B-1 on south lot) and is not sure that the interpretation of the FAA rules. Compass representative said they have talked with FAA. Cartner said they need the information “your company has been cagey with information.”

Vote: all in favor of motion to deny: Cartner and Merrill yea, Gillikin, Neve, Meilheim nay.

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Gillikin asked about marina traffic and parking again.

8:18: Neve moved to approve with conditions listed below. Silence. No seconds. Merrill says hotel is too big and doesn’t second. Cartner said it is too complex and he doesn’t second. “Planning is in front of our name, but we all live here…what we’re dealing with here is the quality of our life here.”

8:15: Neve says he recommend they approve with conditions: that marina is brought up to current standards, that NCDOT right of way is conveyed, and to recommend that the commissioners consider the Orange St. driveway in south lot be made entrance only.

Merrill suggests they recommend light pollution mitigation.

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Gillikin suggests recommendation of analysis of potential flooding impacts and if improvements are possible. Brought up how there are issues with LDO that need to be looked at related to any and all future projects. “We might need to look at the LDO and change things for the future…I think it’s causing people some discomfort.”

Neve says he thinks the project does meet the current LDO and you can’t tell what will happen with parking until afterward. Lots of protest from audience over that statement.

Motion on the table to approve with conditions.

8:09: Gillikin asked if there is a way to deal with pond becoming a cess pond. It would be addressed as if it was a nuisance Meshaw says.

8:04: Meshaw said retaining pond can handle 5-6 inches in an hour period. The south parking lot is set up to run water to the pond and then I do the ground rather than Cedar and Orange as it does now. Says it is impossible for west driveway to slope away from Moore St. Which is why pervious surface has been planned for that area. Several days of rain will cause water to sit in the pond. Said the west end of the lot is not perfect, some water will run off toward Moore. There is gravel in that area now, plan is to take that up and add the pervious surface which he thinks may help.

8:00: Cartner asks if the town should put a moratorium on further development since they have had so many issues to take on that seem to be setting precedents. Said board needs to figure these things out first and not do it piecemeal. Said hotel is too big I’m his opinion. Brought up the hotel attracting heavy alcohol and drug users. Also the town having to hire more EMS personnel. Applause.

Merrill asks if the stormwater issues have really been fully analyzed, what would a hurricane look like?

7:54: Board member Ralph Merrill asked if there are floor plans so they know what to expect. Garner said the architect is waiting for site plan to be approved to do that. By law they do not have to have a floor plan presented for approval.

Gillikin asks about the marina and the combined uses of that. Neve said that sun-operations are not broken out as separate uses.

Neve said Homer Smith and Beaufort Yacht Basin (associated with hotel) “snuck in” before current ordinances regarding boat holding tank pump outs. Said BYB only has one pump station. Knows that at least one vessel must be dumping it’s holding tank. Suggests that marina be held to current standards in that regard.

7:49: Chair Neve suggests that Orange street driveway to south side parking lot be entrance only to help with headlight issues for residents. Also that the fence is meant to protect the neighbors from the lot, but if they don’t want it, what do they do about that? Garner says HPC requested a lower fence already (no decisions have been made by that board.) FAA permit- Garner doesn’t have info on that because it is not required until after the plans are approved. But it has to be done before a building permit is issued. Neve asked if a restaurant will be included, Garner said there was talk about that, and that there’s maybe, but he doesn’t know. They do not look at those uses separately, they look at it all together. Said restart questions are good questions.

7:47: Cartner asked Garner about zoning questions from Anna deButts. Garner said there is no zoning discrepancy. Has been zoned B-1 for years, is not HBD zone which would have more restrictions. Property is in the local historic district but not zoned HBD. Historic district overlay does not change actual zoning.

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7:44: Peggy Reilly, has had career in hotels all over the country. Is familiar with traffic generated by hotels. Says it is way too big for the amount of property. Said there will be commercial nonstop traffic. “It would be nice to have an appropriate hotel in our area here, but the key word is appropriate.”

7:42: Missed name of this speaker, lives on Moore. Wants to reiterate stormwater run off issues. Also the 6-foot fence proposed for the parking lot. Will block views. “If I sit on my porch, I can’t see anything but fence. Also if I sit on my front porch, it takes away my breeze.” Said fence is ugly and will “blow to kingdom come” during the next storm. Applause.

7:37: Robert Harper reiterates that the hotel is very large for the size of the lot. Says the developers aren’t telling board about other parking needs associated with the project: Concessionaires that work out of marina, marina office will be relocated to hotel and there are parking requirements for that, what if they add a gift shop, had heard talk about a bar or restaurant which requires certain parking guidelines. Says he thinks board should be comfortable rejecting the plan as not adequate. Applause.

7:33: Airport authority board member speaking as private citizen. Missed his name. He is concerned about permitting from FAA as far as building height, construction, not interfering with the airport. Does not see that permit in materials. Passed out copy of it to the board. Also concerned about flooding on Moore St. Lives at corner of Moore and Broad. Does not see adequate stormwater mitigation on plans. “This is a flood zone down there.”

7:31: Another Orange resident, Richard Busby, Wants to protect the historic meaning of the town. Hotel can be a benefit to the community if it is done to the proper scale. Asked board to consider next generations.

7:25: Lee Hamrick, owns property on Orange. “I believe we are trying to fit too big of a hotel on top small of a property.” Not enough parking spaces. The LDO 20% parking reduction for larger structures is a “gray rule” and was not thought out of which uses this rule can be applied to. A retail situation would make sense for the rule, not a hotel. Parking already tight. “They continually indicate these 24 parking spaces that are in the public right of way…they are trying to use those spaces as part of their room count.” Says there should be signs on those spaces that hotel guests cannot park there. “If they need a 101 room hotel they need to buy more property.” Retaining basin will set precedent that they can be built all over the historic district. “Snake pits and mosquito ponds.” Also brought up maintenance- said to look at McDonald’s retaining pond that isn’t maintained. Received a round of applause from audience.

7:21: Nancy Rains, who lives on Moore St, said there are flooding issues on Moore. “Are y’all going to let them put impervious surfaces” that will make water run into their yards. Said if they pave it all she won’t be able to walk out her door without walking through 6 inches of water. Asking board to request more pervious surfaces. Also questioning how the retention pond can be allowed within the historic district. Says they should make every surface they can on both properties pervious. And the 6 foot fence proposed for around the lot is not permitted in historic district. Said to look to the Baptist Church lit fence, it’s a “Beaufort” fence.

7:17: Anna deButts, Dick’s wife, is speaking on the zoning of the lots that make up the south parking lot. Part is zoned B-1. She is asking why it’s not zoned historic business district, and boat/trailer storage is not allowed.

Steve Mills, who also hasn’t property on Orange, is very concerned about parking. Most people on Orange dot have off street parking, and need street spots. Said that there were about 20 marina vehicles parked this past weekend. Only 15 marina spaces are required and included in the plan. Said town needs to guarantee that residents can park in front of their properties. Also worried about excessive lighting from hotel and lot going into his windows. Already has issues with marina lighting.

7:09: John Flowers, resident who owns the property adjacent to the south parking lot is speaking. Said he is “totally surrounded” by this parking lot property. Says the plan is incomplete, doesn’t show vegetation near the pond which is also the buffer area. Asked if it will be maintained, grass cut. Asked who maintains the fence separating his property from the parking lot.

Dick deButts, resident who owns property across from the parking lot on Orange St. is speaking. He is concerned about public safety and nuisance issues with the parking lot exit onto Orange. They exist is very close to the intersection with Cedar, cars will block southbound lane. Also concerned about pedestrian traffic. He sees potential congestion and traffic backups. His driveway is directly opposite the exit, and is concerned that headlights will be shining into his and his neighbors houses at night. Although there has been a lot there for years, it was not used as a parking lot. He suggests that traffic enter and exit on Cedar instead of residential streets, perhaps closing the Orange St. Driveway altogether.

7:07: Diane Mielheim asked about adequate parking. Compass Rep said Joe Thomas, majority hotel owner, is comfortable with it. Mielheim said it seems the developers have been “very sensitive” to the parking issue.

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7:02: Representative of Compass is speaking – lots of work with town staff, said staff was very accommodating, “kudos to your staff for the time that they’ve taken through this process.”

Stormwater- DEQ only requires they treat a certain amount of impervious area. Town staff pushed to expand that on the south side of the project (parking lot). “We’ve accomplished that with two methods” the retention “pond” or as described “grass basin” (not an actual pond) and a area of previous surface. “We’ve provided a lot of stormwater retention/treatment for this site.”

Public parking on Orange street “we will be taking care of that, it will be a nice smooth surface when we are through.”

Said they have taken comments from HPC meeting earlier isn’t he summer and incorporated them.

7:00: Audience cannot hear the board very well. Keeps coming up. Cartner has asked if the staff have cross referenced this plan with all technical documents that may be referenced. Garner said by law they must cross reference with the documents that are related. The two have agreed to continue the discussion later.

6:58: Neve asked about questions on a loading/unloading area not being large enough, Garner said there is enough area but it wasn’t shown in the plan and has been fixed.

6:57: Garner: Applicant is grandfathered in under some older ordinance related to parking, but would still meet newer ordinance.

6:53: Chair Ryan Neve asked where the stormwater that rains on the hotel will go. Town Engineer Greg Meshaw explains that there is a system of pipes that collects water and sends it to the creek. There are no requirements for stormwater collection.

6:51: Board Member John Cartner asked about oyster beds around the site, Garner said this is covered by several agencies who will review any changes to the project’s CAMA permit. Plan must be approved before these agencies look into that.

6:45: Garner said the hotel’s site plans meet LDO. Garner said the 12 page size of site plans include comments from staff on other versions of the plans. “This was not a one, or two, or three, or four, this was continuous review.”

6:43: Town Engineer Greg Meshaw is in attendance to answer any stormwater questions.

6:42: Staff comments include – landscaping requirements have been exceeded, if NCDOT does convey 20 ft of right of way on each side of Cedar St. The plan meets the town Land Development Ordinance. NCDOT meets in November.

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6:38: project facts

6:35: Podium is mic’d but board is not. Already had complaints from the audience. Town Planing Dir. Kyle Garner is presenting the Compass site plan

6:34: Board member Paula Gillikin disclosed that she has a boat slip at the Beaufort Yacht Basin, owned by the Compass developers. Legal counsel says this is not a conflict of interest.

6:31: Meeting called to order, quorum present. One agenda change: item C is being reasoned to B-1, not R-8.

Compass story and agenda link here: https://www.theeasternbeacon.com/planning-board-to-review-compass-hotel-plans-monday/

6:23: About 50 in attendance tonight.