Bath commissioners give partial approval|Approve segments of Quarterdeck project

Published 2:01 pm Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Daily News Correspondent

BATH — The Bath Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to approve portions of renovation plans for the Quarterdeck Marina and convenience store on Back Creek.
Responding to a conditional-use permit request from the owners of the marina, the board opted to allow the following:
• the repair of 235 feet of bulkhead;
• the widening of the walkway around the Quarterdeck from roughly 3 1/2 feet to 6 feet;
• the replacement, but not the lengthening of, existing piers;
• the construction of stairs to, and seating space on, the roof of the store, provided no alcoholic beverages are consumed there.
The project still must win the approval of environmental agencies, as required by the Coastal Area Management Act, according to town reports.
The vote was a compromise between the marina owners’ and their supporters’ desire to expand piers and boardwalk and opponents’ resistance to some or all aspects of the expansion.
The motion to approve was made by Commissioner Rob Jenner, who outlined measures that he maintained could be allowed under town zoning ordinances.
Responding to reservations voiced by Commissioner Marty Fulton, the board amended Jenner’s motion to stipulate that the new upper deck close no later than one hour after sunset.
The amendment passed unanimously, but Fulton rescinded her motion before a final vote, thus killing the time stipulation.
In earlier remarks, Fulton said she had “mixed feelings” about the proposed use of the upper-level space. She said several residential neighbors of the Quarterdeck had expressed concerns about noise and pollution.
Fulton indicated she worries that additional seating on top of the store could lead to the creation of a new restaurant.
In response, Town Attorney Wayland Sermons said the owners had not sought permission to convert the Quarterdeck into a restaurant.
The issue before the board was whether or not the expansion of the Quarterdeck’s footprint would violate the town’s land-use plan, Sermons said.
Referring to developer John Baldwin, Sermons said: “Obviously, he wants to serve as many people as he can, and we want his business to be a success.”
Jenner said Baldwin had offered to prohibit the consumption of alcohol on the roof of the store.
“Given that he did offer it, I think we might accept that offer,” Jenner said.
Commissioner Jay Hardin said that three attorneys had issued opinions on the expansion plans, with one opposing those plans and two supporting them.
“If the lawyers can’t make up their minds … what chance do we laymen have to sort out the legality of this thing?” he asked rhetorically.
Hardin said he wouldn’t worry about the legality of the issue.
“In general, I’m always in favor of improvements,” he said.
Commissioner John Taylor said he would be affected by the renovations “probably as much as anyone in this town,” besides another nearby property owner.
He said the extension of the piers would hinder pier additions on neighboring property.
“I do have concerns about the (Quarterdeck) pier additions,” Taylor said.
Mayor Jimmy Latham concurred.
“I think to put pier extensions on would have a negative impact on navigation (in the creek),” Latham said.
Outside the meeting, an impromptu conference was arranged by Fred Mattox, a Greenville attorney representing a number of homeowners opposed to some or all aspects of the Quarterdeck project.
“The board actually came to a compromise decision,” Mattox said after the conference.
Mattox said his clients have a right to appeal the decision within 30 days following the vote.
He said that appeal would be considered by a Superior Court judge, who would determine whether or not there are grounds to uphold the town’s decision.
Mattox said he had not received instructions to file an appeal.
“They may or may not elect to do it,” he said of his clients.
In an interview, Cindy Baldwin, the wife of John Baldwin, said of the board: “I can see that the town council, I think, did their homework, did their best to be fair, but ultimately it comes down to the law.”
Baldwin said the pier extensions would have enhanced safety for boaters.
“The absurdity in all of it is that the main issue is safety, and that’s the part that didn’t pass,” she said.
Baldwin acknowledged that she has offered herself as a candidate for town commissioner partly because of conflicts with the town.