Manteo hears two new ideas, project updates provided

Published 2:08 pm Wednesday, March 1, 2023

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A possible new motto for the Town of Manteo is “Manteo is on the Move.”

In February, the town’s commissioners heard about two new possible projects as well as updated information about on-going staff work.

At mid-month, the commissioners meeting started with presentations about “social districts” followed by Harbor Towns Cruises docking in Manteo.

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A social district is an outdoor area in which alcoholic beverages are allowed to be carried in designated containers on the street.

North Carolina is one of dozen states that permits social districts. In this state as of Nov. 21, 2022, some 21 towns or cities have created social districts.

A geographic area is identified and clearly marked visually. Once created, the social district map is filed with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

Businesses that do not serve alcohol may choose to opt out of allowing beverages in-store.

Manteo would seem to meet the criteria for a good social district. The town is walkable, has multiple venues, hosts special events and has a beer and wine culture, it was noted.

With a social district, the opportunity exists for increased events, visitors and sales.

Concerns include drinking-related issues such as underage consumption and irresponsible behavior.

Making the presentation was Garret Cameron. The Main Street Program’s Board of Advisors will consider the suggestion and return to the commissioners.

For 30 or 40 years, the idea of traveling among Pamlico Sound-front villages by boat has been proposed.

This year, the idea will become a reality.

Peter Thompson with Harbor Towns Inc. made the presentation of connected waterfronts with cruises.

In the past, funding has stood in the way. The state’s General Assembly granted $5.5 million to the Harbor Towns project. The 501(c)(3) corporation has contracted with Smoky Mountain Jet Boat Builders for two aluminum HYSU Catamarans capable of holding 30 passengers, going 33 miles per hour, with a 10-inch draft when running and three feet draft in dock. The U.S. Coast Guard has inspected and passed every weld and wire.

Said Thompson to the Manteo commissioners: “we hope to do business in your harbor.”

The boats will arrive in April and after running routes, will most likely start trips May 15.

In addition to the two boats, the corporation will also have a dinner boat capable of hosting 90 people for dinner and 153 people for an excursion. No kitchen is on board this ship. Everything will be catered. This 100-foot boat will fit comfortably on the T-dock and the catamarans can dock on the lighthouse boardwalk under previously enacted Manteo regulations.

The cost of a ticket will be $20 to $25 one way, said Thompson.

Town manager Melissa Dickerson ran down a list of projects underway in the town:

Lift station project: The station is online and operating well. The old station is demolished and concrete for a parking area has been poured. Rocking chairs for the porch of the lift station have been purchased. An enclosure around utilities will be built. Repair work is proceeding on the stormwater infrastructure.

Town Common: Handrail has been modified.

Tree work: Bradford pear trees will be removed and replaced with native trees. At George Washington Creef Park, vegetation in front of bathroom entrances will be removed due to safety concerns.

A dead tree in Town Common will be removed. At the lift station on Wingina, vegetation and another dead tree were removed.

Planning is underway for the Downtown Market.  Some 25 vendors have already signed up for one of the 42 slots available. Additional work is going forward for Dare Day and July 4. Requests for qualifications for a Chief Manteo statue, for wayfinding planning and a branding plan have gone out. Town staffers are working on an application to Golden Leaf Foundation for stormwater system work.

A building permit has been issued and work has started on renovations for the Manteo Medical Clinic on Budleigh Street.

Manteo-owned land on Sir Walter Raleigh Street opposite Pea Island Cookhouse was the subject of a request for proposals to build housing. No proposals were received. The town will reissue a request for proposals for housing.

Said Dickerson “I think the climate is very different now than in 2021.”

During public comment, Michael Basnight supported the proposal by Harbor Towns.

Yvonne Farmer thanked the commissioners for denying the special use permit for Salt Meadow Landing and for protecting her health, safety and welfare. She acknowledged the tremendous amount of work done by town staff. “Thank you for keeping Manteo a special place we all call home,” said Farmer.

Mayor Bobby Owens asked the board to think about making the mayor’s position a voting position.

Commission Sherry Wickstrom suggested installing water bottle filling stations, an idea that came from a merchant.

Commissioner Eddie Mann asked the staff to inquire if a municipality can move the Oregon Inlet Life-Saving Station.

At the last of the Feb. 15 meeting, Owens thanked the board for “moving forward rapidly” and praised the board’s innovation.