COP Expansion Off to Slow Start
After 15 months of controversy, three public hearings and two workshops – not to mention a Herculean effort in research by Town staff – an ordinance to allow Consumption of Alcohol expansion onto the beach was passed by Town Council in early September of 2012. So what's happened since then? Despite some dire predictions, Town Community Development Director Walter Fluegel told us that, actually, very little occurred.
"Nemo's, the Cottage, Wicked Wings and the Holiday Inn have all been in for a couple of months now trying to get permitted,” he said. "We've rejected all of them so far because they've been struggling with the surveying requirements – specifically, the Mean High Water (MHW) line.”
The ordinance allows expansion of 1/3 of the distance from the EC Zoning line – or the back of the business – to the MHW line, up to 100 feet. Fluegel explained that the ordinance requires that the MHW line be established from 19-year average, which can be difficult to accomplish and that most businesses don't understand why it is necessary.
"They've all come in with a 'date-certain' MHW - they didn't do the math to determine the average,” he said. "It's critically important to have that average and that it's based on historical data so it's consistent and not going to fluctuate wildly – for instance, we don't want people to have to be constantly pulling ropes and posts around every time it floods. If it was surveyed last week, and last week was a high tide, the line could be as much as 50 feet different the following week. We're struggling to get everyone to understand that rationale, but that's why we need that average.”
Walter told us that Nemo's has successfully completed the surveying, and several of the others are getting close.
"We are now working on the administrative approval for Nemo's – they will be the first one,” he said. "They figured out the surveying and got everything right, and there are a couple others that are close.”
In addition to the surveying requirements, businesses must also complete a site plan and then go to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for an approval for the ropes and posts.
"There is the possibility that DEP may come back with additional requirements, which we will then have to dovetail with ours,” he said.
We spoke with Gary Ciniello, who is the Food and Beverage Director for the corporation that owns Nemo's, and he told us that he is very excited to have gotten through the process and that Nemo's should be serving on the beach by the beginning of March.
"It has taken some time, but the Town worked with us and the people on the beach are now in the process of forming the parameters of exactly how, when and where we can serve,” he said. "We already have our paperwork ready to submit to the DEP, and I'm told we should be ready go by the first of March. I'm very pleased because the reason we supported this from the beginning is so that everyone could have a level playing field, and I believe this solves that issue.”
Other than the above-mentioned businesses, others that are eligible for the expansion include Pink Shell, Edison Beach House, Pierside Grill, Top O' Mast, the Lani Kai, Junkanoo's and the Beach Pub.
"We have been talking with Junkanoo, but that's it so far besides the ones I mentioned,” Walt told us. "As far as the Beach Pub, I doubt they'll come in because they already have approval and theirs is close to what the ordinance is anyway. As far as the Lani Kai, they got their zoning from the county years before incorporation and it allows them to serve onto the wet sand. I don't think they'd give up any of that area to come into compliance with our ordinance.”
"When the ordinance was passed, eligible establishments were told that they had until March 4th of this year to have their application approved administratively,” he added. "We are in the process of sending out reminder letters to those who have yet to apply.”
Keri Hendry Weeg