Belhaven Chamber case put on hold

Published 6:57 pm Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The case against the Belhaven Community Chamber of Commerce is on hold until June 29.

Magistrate Eric Holmes granted the Chamber’s request for a continuance, despite objection from Town of Belhaven representatives, during a short hearing Wednesday morning at Beaufort County Courthouse.

The town filed a claim on May 27 due to the Chamber’s failure to move out of its Main Street building after given notice to vacate.

Town officials said the official 30-day notice was delivered May 1, but Chamber representatives contend it was not received until May 13 — thus the argument for allotting the group more time to vacate.

“They don’t check the mailbox every day,” attorney Will Mayo said of the delayed receipt.

The Chamber of Commerce intends to move into the current location of the Belhaven Senior Center, but needs more time, as the building will not be available until a later date, according to Mayo.

At Wednesday’s hearing, he said the Chamber needed more time to discuss a plan of action and gather information before appearing in court.

The group has occupied an old train depot building for about 30 years, operating on a month-to-month oral agreement. Belhaven’s Board of Aldermen voted to give the notice to vacate at an April 25 meeting after the Chamber chose not to turn over a plot of land to the town. The land was donated to the Chamber and is located behind the former Vidant Pungo Hospital.

Mayor Adam O’Neal said the Chamber is not working in the best interest of the town, as obtaining the donated land could be a step toward reopening Belhaven’s hospital.

O’Neal said the town plans to move its police department into the building, but until the Chamber moves out, Belhaven has to continue to pay rent for the department’s current space on East Main Street.

“The longer they stay there, the more they’re costing the town,” he said. “This is a town building, and they have no (written) rental agreement. … They have been there at the pleasure of the town for years.”

“We need the building now,” O’Neal added. “They have no right to be in that building.”