Restroom possibilities considered

Published 5:51 am Wednesday, October 22, 2008

By Staff
Washington City Council whittled choices to three
Staff Writer
After five years-plus of planning, applying for grants and lengthy discussions, the City of Washington on Monday night moved one step closer to building new public-bathroom facilities on Stewart Parkway.
The council was holding a regular meeting at the Municipal Building in Washington.
Director Bobby Roberson with Washington’s Planning and Development Department said the need for public restrooms came with the city’s improvements to Stewart Parkway.
The City Council approved a temporary restroom site designated for boaters. The restrooms are strictly for boaters and not considered public.
The need for public restrooms significantly comes into play when the city is holding festivals and events on Stewart Parkway, said Roberson.
Roberson, who lives two blocks from the parkway, said he frequents the waterfront promenade often.
The city council requested that Roberson meet with Washington’s Planning Board to discuss possible sites for the restrooms.
Through much internal discussion of the board and external discussion with stakeholders, the planning board narrowed the list of potential sites on the parkway to eight.
Roberson made a presentation on the locations to the council Monday night. The council discussed the sites and determined that three locations were the most viable.
The first location is the site of the temporary boater bathrooms, which is preferred by several stakeholders’ groups.
The Washington Tourism Development Authority, Washington/Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce and Citizens for Revitalization like the current site, said Roberson during the presentation.
The second location is the city’s public parking area next to the Washington/Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce.
Washington Mayor Judy Meier Jennette, as well as several council members, remarked that the site was too small for such a facility.
The third option involves relocating the Cottage Service Station on West Second Street in Washington to a site on Stewart Parkway and converting it into a facility to house public restrooms.
The Washington-Area Historic Foundation voted to support the move of the service station, according to member Dee Congleton.
She said the foundation gave input to the planning board about its desire.
Gary Tomasulo, president of the Historic Downtown Washington Merchants Association, said he liked the idea of moving the service station.
If the council votes to house the public restrooms in the service station, the facility could hold men’s and women’s bathrooms with showers, a washroom with two washers and dryers and a dock master office.
A feasibility study was done on moving the station and converting it. The total estimate in costs provided by J.W. Tyson &Sons Movers and Ray Lilley Jr., and additional charges in utilities, was just under $200,000.
The property housing the service station is owned by the First Presbyterian Church. Roberson said that if the council wants to use the building it must meet with the church to see if an agreement can be made on the property.
Another issue involved with moving the church is that coastal management grants, through which the city is looking for additional monies to open the public restrooms, “will not cover office space and moving a building,” said Roberson.
The grants will cover projects that provide greater access to the waterways, such as public restrooms and parking and landscaping.
With many stakeholders involved in the decision-making process, Ross Hamory, president of Downtown Washington on the Waterfront, applauded the planning board for forming a new, cohesive entity; the Citizens for Revitalization.
He said the purpose of the organization is to “try to get everybody involved and come to a community consensus.”
Hamory said this was necessary “because we haven’t really nailed down the total plan.”
Roberson’s next move is to hold a public meeting regarding the bathrooms.
He said he will send each stakeholder an individual letter.
After the meeting, Roberson said, “All the stakeholders will bring an adopted resolution to the (planning) board.”
Then, Roberson will once again make a presentation to the City Council.
He said the timetable to receive grant funding for the bathrooms is running out, which makes the need for a council decision much more urgent.