County takes on more Belhaven waterfront property

Published 11:58 pm Sunday, November 20, 2016

County commissioners officially accepted another several acres of Belhaven land that will add to a 40-plus-acre tract of the Belhaven waterfront the county owns.

The 7.46 acres of land formerly housed a marina, and is adjacent to what’s known as the Cooperage Tract, which was donated to the county last year.

Before commissioners would accept the donation, they asked that an environmental assessment be done on the land to make sure there the county would not be taking on contaminated or unusable property. The assessment came at a cost of $1,700 and, according to Seth Laughlin, the county’s planning director, came back clear of major issues.

“We did get that back and it had nothing of significant concern,” Laughlin told commissioners.

The board voted 6-1 to accept the property, with Commissioner Gary Brinn the sole dissenting vote.

“I was not in favor of this to begin with,” Brinn said before the vote. “I don’t like the idea of private people being able to dump their property on the county, so I can’t support it.”

During the September Board of Commissioners meeting, discussion of the property donation centered on how Belhaven and Beaufort County lose property tax dollars and the county gains maintenance costs when commissioners accept donated land. Commissioner Hood Richardson posed the question as to whether the Cooperage Tract and its adjacent land could be donated back to the Town of Belhaven to sell once the county has ownership, saying it would give Belhaven a chance to recoup some of its tax losses, as the property is one of the most commercially valuable in town.

However, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and the county previously agreed to partner on replacing the town’s current public boat ramp with a larger one on the Cooperage Tract. Later, Wildlife Resources agreed that the land being donated by Brantley Tillman, consisting of a little less than 5 acres of upland and 2.59 acres of wetland, would be a more ideal spot for a boat ramp. The parcel is located at the corner of Belhaven’s Main Street and N.C. Highway 99 South.

The land was donated with the intention that it be used for the betterment of the residents of Beaufort County and Belhaven, according Laughlin.