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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Board favors Nauti Times’  continued operations

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When Wrightsville Beach leaders voted last year to require boat rental facilities to hold conditional use permits, most businesses were able to comply. Nauti Times Boat Rentals was not, but March 8 the town’s planning board was in favor of making boat rentals a permitted use so the business could continue operating without a permit.

The planning board voted unanimously to recommend the town make boat rental facilities a permitted use instead of a conditional use, simplifying the process of opening such a business because owners wouldn’t have to go through the lengthy conditional use permitting process.

It would also allow Nauti Times Boat Rentals to continue operating as it has for the past 15 years.

Owner Jeffrey Hughes was not able to complete the conditional use permitting process because he could not get authorization from Seapath Yacht Club, the marina out of which he rents his four boats. The yacht club’s Board of Commanders reviews Hughes’ business annually and while they were willing to allow him to continue renting boats this year, their bylaws prevented them from taking the necessary steps to help him secure the permit.

When town leaders made boat rental facilities a conditional use last year, they did so because they believed it would give them more control over such businesses. But under a permitted use, rental facilities would still have to meet a number of conditions: in this case, no more than four boats allowed, no Jet Skis allowed, no storage of boats on trailers, hours of operation limited from dawn until dusk and a business plan required that shows where boats will be stored, maintained and fueled.

Hughes’ agent, attorney Geoffrey Losee, said, “With the supplemental regulations, the town has the opportunity to have all the control or oversight it feels is appropriate, so you get the same benefit without the CUP particular process.”

Town staff and leaders mainly wanted control over boat rental facilities for safety purposes — to ensure powerboats weren’t rented by inexperienced or careless boaters — but Losee and Hughes assured board members Nauti Times would not allow that to happen.

Hughes pointed out that all four boats are his, so he would never rent them to someone who would operate the vessel recklessly. His safety standards include requiring captains have five years’ boating experience before they rent, which he said is “way above the insurance and state requirements.”

Board members were comfortable casting a vote that would allow Nauti Times to continue operations, but they were careful to consider how such a vote might affect other businesses in the affected C3 zoning district. Director of planning and parks Tony Wilson said the boat rental facilities that already have conditional use permits will not be affected, because CUPs trump regular zoning laws.

The board of aldermen will vote on the amendment in April and adjust the regulations as it sees fit.

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