Wrightsville Beach board rejects appeal for boat slips for Scotchman property

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A quasi-judicial board upheld the ruling of Wrightsville Beach town staff that current zoning restrictions don’t allow the owner of the former Scotchman property to build a marina or dock on the property. The ruling follows the property owner’s 2018 withdrawal of plan to build a restaurant on the site after several neighbors raised concerns about the plans for the site before the town’s planning board.

The Wrightsville Beach Board of Adjustment unanimously found that town staff was correct in ruling that the C-3 zoning classification for 100 W. Salisbury St. didn’t allow for WB Watermen, LLC, to build a nine-slip dock into Lees Cut behind the property. Lawyers representing WB Watermen, owned by Reggie Barnes, argued that the zoning allowed for the property owner to build the boat slips “by right.”

Tony Wilson, Wrightsville Beach planning and parks director, said that a marina can be built in C-3 zoning, but only after winning a conditional use permit from the town’s board of aldermen.

However, WB Watermen argued that the proposal was not technically a marina, but instead a pier, which could be built in P-1 zoning. While the land area of 100 W. Salisbury St. is zoned C-3, the waters of Lees Cut that border the property are zoned P-1.

The hearing not only explored how a marina, or “boataminium,” is defined, but also what types of services can be offered to meet the definition, including what constitutes boat storage. For example, renderings of the proposed dock filed with the town showed water and electricity hook-ups for boats, something that wouldn’t be allowed if the property owners were trying to define the structure as a pier.

In 2018, WB Watermen LLC pulled an application for a conditional use permit that would allow for a restaurant to be built on the site of the Scotchman, a derelict building that hasn’t been occupied in more than a decade. In addition to turning the building into a restaurant, the proposal would have seen a nine-slip dock build on the property.

With plans for the restaurant on hold, Barnes said he wanted to build the boat-slip part of the project to capitalize on the demand for boat storage in Wrightsville Beach.

Barnes told the board that the boat slip service wouldn’t require employees or services.

“There’s such a demand for boat storage that would could rent the slips without the hookups,” Barnes said.

However, the board determined that the even if the structure was determined to be a pier, it would still have to touch C-3 zoning, requiring the conditional use permit.

The board of adjustment is a quasi-judicial board where witnesses can be cross-examined by attorneys. With its ruling issued, WB Watermen now has the option to challenge the results in court.

After the hearing, Barnes said he wasn’t sure if he would challenge the ruling, adding that he was working to find a way to get the best utility out of the property.

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