The Town continues its efforts to promote quality redevelopment in the Islander Drive area, and conducted a special meeting on September 19 to receive public input on potential future improvements in this area. Mayor Barber and the Board of Commissioners received many constructive comments at the meeting, and they continue to thoughtfully consider all public input in an effort to determine the best strategy for the eventual redevelopment and improvement of this underutilized area.
The Town has been working for several years to improve the appearance and function of the Islander Drive area, with a goal to ultimately create an attractive and vibrant area in this part of Emerald Isle that will benefit the entire community. As noted in previous editions of Emerald Tidings, the Town took an important step toward the ultimate achievement of this goal in June by purchasing the abandoned go-kart track property (1.8 acres) on Islander Drive, and then immediately retained a contractor to remove all debris and restore the site to a vacant tract. The Town was fortunate to secure $450,000 from Carteret County (economic development funding) toward the total land acquisition and clean-up cost of nearly $700,000. The Town's goals for this land acquisition were: 1) clean-up the property (goal achieved in July), 2) pursue a quality redevelopment project that will promote additional economic activity in the Town during the fall, winter, and spring months, and 3) promote additional quality redevelopment in the Islander Drive area. Based on discussion during the past year and a stated goal in the Town's Comprehensive Land Use Plan, the Town initially identified the development of an appropriately-scaled meeting and events center (with low building heights and comparable building size as existing development in Emerald Isle) as the preferred strategy to achieve goals 2 and 3 above.
The Town continues to work hard on this initiative, and will continue to consider additional public input over the coming months. The Town is intentionally moving at a very deliberate and methodical pace to ensure that all ideas are thoroughly considered and that the end result is beneficial for the entire Emerald Isle community. It is important to note that the Town has definitively stated (from the very beginning of this initiative) that any redevelopment project will in no way diminish the quantity and quality of public beach parking at the Western Ocean Regional Access facility, and will hopefully enhance this important public facility. Although the Town initially considered incorporating the Western Ocean Regional Access facility into the overall plan, the Town is no longer considering that approach and will focus all of its future efforts on the recently acquired 1.8 acre tract. It is also important to note that the Town is not planning to fund, construct, or manage any new buildings, and is simply attempting to position the land for future development by a private entity or entities - with equitable compensation provided to the Town. Finally, although a meeting and events center was initially identified as the preferred strategy, the Town will thoughtfully consider any residential, commercial, and/or mixed-use proposals that achieve goals 2 and/or 3 above. Essentially, a meeting and events center is one means to achieve these goals, but is certainly not the only means, and the Town will consider any and all ideas that are presented. In the end, the Town simply seeks to foster quality redevelopment in this area, and that redevelopment could literally be anything that is attractive and consistent with the Town's development regulations.
Most importantly, the Town remains firmly committed to the "family beach image" and "small-town atmosphere" that make Emerald Isle such a special place for all of us. Whatever the ultimate outcome in the Islander Drive area, any redevelopment will absolutely conform to these core values. All of us at the Town have a keen appreciation for these values, and we have all worked diligently over the years to continually improve Emerald Isle in a manner that is consistent with these values.