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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Private access easement ordinance created

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A proposed new Town of Wrightsville Beach ordinance is designed to clarify private access easements.

The Wrightsville Beach Planning Board unanimously approved a favorable recommendation to the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen of the ordinance during the Tuesday, April 1 meeting.

After a recommendation by Member Zeke Partin, planning and parks director Tony Wilson said he would have town attorney John Wessell insert wording stating the private access easements should be no less than 10 feet for accesses 100 feet in length.

“The past 10 to 15 years, we thought that was in our ordinance and it’s not,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t address that the easements can be 10 feet, so we felt like we had to clean it up.”

Accesses more than 100 feet in length must have 12-foot wide easements with a minimum overhead clearance of 13 feet 6 inches. Fire hydrants could be put in later, Wilson said.

Bill Baggett, co-owner of the Blockade Runner Beach Resort, spoke in favor of the change for his aunt who lives in a home on a landlocked lot on Augusta Street. The oceanfront road in front of the home washed away during Hurricane Hazel in 1954. Baggett said the home needs a lot of work.

“The problem is they couldn’t get any equipment to it,” Baggett said. “… It’s a strange situation, because at one time there was a street going to the house.”

There is a walk-in easement of 5 feet, but Wilson and members agreed this particular owner should be grandfathered.

“The spirit of this discussion was just to establish developmental standards from this day forward,” Chairman Ace Cofer said.

Wilson said planning staff would receive comments from Wessell about the Augusta Street lot before the ordinance heads to the aldermen for consideration.

“That’s one of those far-reaching impacts that may have adverse effects,” Cofer said.

Planning board members began discussing standards for private access easements in August 2013, due to undeveloped, landlocked town lots and buyer interest. Sunset Avenue, Atlanta Street and Charlotte to Raleigh streets include examples of similar lots, but are all owned by families. The ordinance states that a private easement may provide access to a maximum of four residential units.

Earlier in the meeting, the board unanimously approved a favorable recommendation to the aldermen for a text amendment to board of adjustment ordinances updating the wording to North Carolina standards.

In May, a few conditional use permits will likely come before the board. Wilson also said the board may again look into an ordinance for churches renting parking spaces.

Vice Chairman Ken Dull was absent from the meeting.

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