Town of Emerald Isle is finalizing the purchase of 30 acres of undeveloped land to preserve for recreational use, buffer to military training

EMERALD ISLE | All the funding pieces have come together for a land purchase by the Town of Emerald Isle that will help preserve a buffer between military training in the area and future community uses.

Town officials are finalizing closing on the $3 million property following approval of several documents by the Board of Commissioners at their Sept. 12 board meeting.

The 29.7-acre tract is the last remaining large vacant tract of land within the Town of Emerald Isle and the plan is the preserve 20 acres in its natural state and reserve the remaining 9.7 acres for future recreational uses by the town, such as ballfields.

A critical piece of the purchase plan is federal funding available through the military’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program.

The property, known as the Surfside tract, is located in the flight path for Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue and the town has been working with MCAS Cherry Point on securing the funds to purchase the property to prevent further encroachment of development that could interfere with training at Bogue Field.

One of the documents approved by commissioners was a resolution accepting $1.5 million in REPI funding, a final piece of the funding package.

A Sept. 6 letter from C.E. Schule, at the direction of Cherry Point’s commanding officer, confirms that Cherry Point has secured the funding.

“Through various funding sources, the State of North Carolina has played a prominent role in helping the U.S. Marine Corps address encroachment pressures facing Eastern North Carolina,” the letter states. “We are grateful to have partnered with the State of North Carolina on previous projects and look forward to continued cooperation with the Town of Emerald Isle and our encroachment partnering entity, The Conservation Fund, on this project.”

The federal funding is expected to be released in Spring 2018. The Conservation Fund of North Carolina, a nonprofit and authorized grant recipient for REPI funds, will provide the interim financing for the purchase of the property and hold the land until the federal funds are released. The land will then be conveyed to the town.

According to town information, the town will incur administrative, legal and interest expenses as a result of the arrangement with The Conservation Fund of up to $75,000 but the town will have full rights to use of the land as soon as the Conservation Fund has completed to acquisition in the coming weeks.

The use of the REPI funds will require the execution of easement and/or deed restrictions that will restrict any significant buildings on the property. The easement will allow for active recreational uses on the 9.7 acres such as ball fields, tennis courts, dog park, splash park, pickleball courts and associated facilities such as restrooms or small storage building.

The town has not developed any specific plans for the property at this point.

In addition to the $1.5 million in REPI funds, the town has received a $545,000 N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund grant, a $500,000 N.C. Parks and Recreation grant. The town has committed to the balance of $455,000 and will likely finance it over a 10-year period.

With the town board’s approval at the September meeting, the town manager and town attorney are authorized to execute the necessary agreements to finalize the funding package and property acquisition.

 

Reporter Jannette Pippin can be reached at Jannette.Pippin@JDNews.com or 910-382-2557.