At the applicant’s request, the Board of Commissioners last night tabled a special-use permit for a barbecue restaurant at the intersection of Corbett Avenue and Hammocks Beach Road.
We’ll take it up again at our next meeting on Feb. 27.
In the other major agenda item, the board unanimously approved a permit for a new commercial building downtown. Edward Venters plans to build a single story, 1,536-square-foot brick addition to the old Harry Moore Store at 108 Front Street. This is the empty lot next to the Salt Marsh Cottage. The building is in the town’s historic district. The Swansboro Historic Properties Commission had approved the design for the new building.
After completing much of the hearing for the Moore’s Chicken and Barbecue Restaurant, the applicant, Baldwin Design Consultants of Greenville, asked the commissioners to delay the vote to allow Commissioner Pat Turner an opportunity to consider the permit. Turner was absent last night for medical reasons. A tie vote among the remaining four commissioners would have been a denial of the permit. According to our ordinance, the mayor couldn’t have voted to break a tie in this instance. We unanimously agreed to the request.
All of the commissioners last night expressed fears about the volume of traffic that the restaurant and other development spawned by Walmart will generate at Corbett and Hammocks Beach. Baldwin’s traffic engineer testified that the improvements recommended in his study will meet the traffic requirements of our ordinances. The traffic study recommends allowing only eastbound traffic to enter the restaurant parking lot from Corbett Avenue. Those traveling west on Corbett would have to turn left on Hammocks Beach and enter the parking lot on a driveway there. Everyone leaving the restaurant would do so on Hammocks Beach. To minimize long lines of cars waiting to make left-hand turns at Hammocks Beach, the study recommends making the current right-hand lane into a dual turn lane.
Importantly, our traffic engineer concurred with those recommendations.
While this is a Band-Aid approach to the larger problem, denying the permit now invites a lawsuit. These special-use permits require quasi-judicial hearings. We can only consider evidence presented during the hearings. When our own engineer testifies that the applicant’s approach will satisfy our ordinance, we have little left to base a denial on traffic issues.
The best we might be able to do at this point is push for the needed improvements at that intersection. The town is meeting today with the Walmart developers and DOT to approve the plat, pictured here, for the long-discussed Norris Road realignment with the Walmart entrance. Everyone agrees this addition is needed to safely move traffic in and out of Walmart. Our engineer said last night it will relieve 50 percent of the traffic pressure on Hammocks Beach, and our manager said he’s almost certain it will be built in the next 12 months.
Charles Rawls, who owns all property on west side of Hammocks Beach near the Moore’s lot, committed last night to internally connect all his properties on that side of Hammocks Beach by building an access road from Walmart’s existing driveway. If Walmart agrees, that road will eliminate the need for future driveways on the road when those lots are developed.
Finally, we need to make adding another turn lane on Hammocks Beach a drop-dead condition when the old ABC store across the street property is redeveloped.