February 9, 2016

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

FROM:                  Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager

SUBJECT:           Commercial Review – Proposed Renovation of The Islander Suites

(North Building)

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to review the site plan, building elevations, and exterior colors for a proposed renovation of the north building at The Islander Suites.  The north building currently houses the check-in area, offices, and public meeting spaces, and renovations include the addition of a 2nd story with 20 additional rooms, improvements to the ground floor to better accommodate public gatherings, and exterior façade improvements to match the previous renovations completed in 2007.  The end result will be a consistent look for both buildings at The Islander Suites.

The attached memo from Josh Edmondson, Town Planner, includes the relevant details associated with the proposed renovations.  Upon completion, The Islander Suites will include a total of 102 “condo-tel” units.  As part of the renovations, the existing concrete foundation and asphalt remaining from a previously demolished building located adjacent to the entrance road to the Western Ocean Regional Access will be removed and become part of the wastewater treatment area, and should further enhance aesthetics in this area.

The Board should note that the Planning Board recommends approval of the site plan and exterior colors, but recommends a condition on the building elevations.  The Planning Board expressed concern that the proposed gables on the renovated building may not meet the Town’s aesthetic requirements, and simply recommends that the exterior appearance match the previously renovated building (pictures attached).  The owners of The Islander Suites have agreed to that condition.

The Board may recall that The Islander Suites previously received approval for a new 4-story structure in October 2014 that would have replaced the building now planned for renovation.  The owners have reconsidered that strategy, and now propose the renovations presented for Board approval on February 9.  If approved, work is expected to begin this spring and continue through the summer.  The Islander Suites will be open all summer, as the renovations will only impact the renovated structure.  All other rooms will remain available for use.

The Board should note that The Islander Suites is a “condo-tel”, which is essentially a hotel in which the rooms are owned by individuals rather than one owner of the hotel.  In 2007, prior to the rezoning of this property (and others in the Islander Drive area) to Village West (a mixed-use zoning district that allows a mixture of residential and commercial uses), the Town developed extensive regulations to insure that a “condo-tel” operated in the same manner as a traditional hotel, and included provisions preventing the owner of the “condo-tel” unit from using the unit as a second residence.  With the subsequent rezoning of the property to Village West (and resulting allowance of residential uses), these provisions are somewhat in conflict with the new zoning classification, and Town staff and the Planning Board will be reviewing this issue in the coming months to provide clarity in the Town’s ordinances.  I don’t believe this issue should have any bearing on the Board’s decision regarding the proposed renovations on the February 9 meeting agenda, and I encourage the Board to proceed with the planned review and approval on February 9.

I am pleased to see the proposed renovation, and look forward to continued aesthetic improvements in this area of Emerald Isle.  The previous renovation of The Islander Suites was a significant improvement, and the proposed renovation will only enhance the area.  With the real estate market poised for continued growth, I remain optimistic that future redevelopment will occur in the Village West area centered on Islander Drive, and Town staff stands ready to assist property owners / investors in any way that may be helpful.  As noted in the past, the redevelopment of the Village West area is one of my highest priorities for the Town in the coming years.