MOI demolition proposal comes as board meets on new parking rules

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A derelict commercial building in Harbor Island’s business district may be coming down to make room for parking. An owner of Poe’s Tavern on Old Causeway Drive told the board of aldermen that he planned to buy the neighboring building, former home of the Middle of the Island restaurant, and demolish it.

In an email sent to the aldermen Jan. 10, Rusty Bennett, co-owner of Poe’s Tavern, said he was negotiating to purchase the building where the Middle of the Island restaurant operated for more than 40 years. Bennett told the board his plan was to put a pervious surface parking lot of gravel or oyster shell for patrons of Poe’s Tavern. The building has been empty for nearly a decade.

The proposal comes as the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen is set to evaluate new parking restrictions for the town that could extend pay parking across the island and construct new spaces on Old Causeway Drive.

The board will conduct a workshop on parking on Thursday, Jan. 12 at 3:30 p.m., where several proposals will be discussed in a format that doesn’t require board votes, but does allow for it. Town manager Tim Owens said instead of a vote, the workshop will likely result in directions for the staff to create a code amendment enacting parking changes that could be considered by the board during its February meeting.

The most impactful change on the workshop agenda is the extension of parking collection times across the island. Most parking is collected daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., but the board will discuss adding hours of collection, possibly extending parking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The proposal comes after the town reached a record high with more than $3 million in parking revenue in 2016 after it added new parking spots and extended hours at four lots with access to the beach strand.

Wrightsville Beach Mayor Bill Blair said that parking revenues were high primarily because of good weather, not the increased collection periods, and that the increased revenue will likely result in increased contributions to the town’s savings, which will be needed to continue beach sand replacement projects that are under threat of losing federal funding.

Another parking proposal would extend the calendar for when parking fees are collected on Keel Street, Marina Street and Old Causeway Drive. Collection would extend from its current May 1 to Sept. 15 collection period to the March 1 to Oct. 31 schedule that applies to most town parking.

Blair said that he expected board members to work toward making parking rules and collection times more uniform across the town.

One proposal is the building of new parking spaces on Old Causeway Drive, adding 24 spaces to the existing parking area by converting more than a dozen parallel spaces into angled parking spaces, bringing the total number of spaces in the area to 39. Because that stretch of Old Causeway Drive is considered part of the River to the Sea Trail, the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization may be required to approve the removal of a sidewalk and bike lane by the parallel spaces.

The $55,000 project would generate up to $15,000 a year in new revenue, estimates Lanier Parking, the company that manages parking for the town. Blair said the board may consider the parking lot proposal from Bennett, noting that the expense might not be necessary if other business owners expand parking in the area.

Email terrylane@luminanews.com

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