Proposed boat ramp is a no-go

Published 6:24 pm Thursday, January 26, 2017

BELHAVEN — The Town of Belhaven successfully rejected plans for installing another North Carolina Wildlife Commission boat ramp.

County Manager Brian Alligood said the plan to install another public ramp in Belhaven is no longer in the works, and the Wildlife Commission plans to instead renew its lease on the other Belhaven ramp, currently in operation near Water Street.

The second ramp was initially planned for the Cooperage Tract, a 40-acre parcel of land located at the corner of N.C. Highway 99 and West Main Street in Belhaven, an area of which the majority is wetlands.

Last fall, the Town requested that the proposed boat ramp be moved to the adjacent property formerly owned by Brantley Tillman, who donated the approximately 7.5 acres to the county.

At Monday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting, town Manager Woody Jarvis told the board that the Wildlife Commission expressed concern about the railroad tracks on the Tillman property.

Alligood said the tracks are privately leased, and if the boat ramp were installed, signals and gates would need to be installed to protect residents, costing around $500,000. The Wildlife Commission declined to incur those unbudgeted costs.

The Board of Aldermen has continually expressed its concerns about the boat ramp’s installation on the Cooperage Tract because once the Commission takes over, the land would be considered government land and thus leave no opportunity for tax revenue for the Town.

In past meetings, Mayor Adam O’Neal has said he would prefer to see the land privately developed.

At the Jan. 9 board meeting, Michael Lam, director of operations at Inner Banks Seafood Co., of Plymouth, presented a plan to develop the land in question.

Lam’s multimillion-dollar project proposal would include construction of a marina, fueling dock and snack bar, if it came to fruition. The board expressed its support for this development plan.

“The town board passed a resolution that said, ‘We don’t want (the ramp) there, and we’re going to try to fight it,’” Alligood explained. “If people don’t want it there, we’re not going to force it where people don’t want it.”

Monday night, Jarvis also mentioned the local Economic Development Advisory Board that is involved in the land development plans, saying advisory board member and Belhaven resident Andrew Fisher has suggested the aldermen’s disdain for the ramp does not represent all residents’ wishes.

“I wanted to make sure everybody knows how they’re being represented in that economic development commission,” Jarvis said.

“I don’t know where he came about calling himself a representative of the town of Belhaven,” Alderman Steve Carawan said.

Fisher said the Beaufort County commissioners appointed him to the advisory board, and he previously worked with the property as a realtor before it was donated to the county.

“I don’t have time to worry about that,” Fisher said of the comments against him. “I’m very familiar with that property, walked it numerous times.”

“I represent the county as a whole. I just happen to be from Belhaven,” he added.

The Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to send out letters to officials, reminding them of the board’s desire to see the Cooperage Tract used for other purposes than the public boat ramp. Alderman Ricky Credle was absent from the meeting.

“The representatives of the people of Belhaven are sitting at this table right now,” O’Neal said.