On Wednesday afternoon, about 15 residents of Hercules Street gathered at Town Hall to share their ideas of what they want to see done at the street’s public bay access. Answering their questions were Public Works Director Scott Baker, Administrative Specialist Chelsea O’Riley, Council member Rexann Hosafros and Mark Kincaid from Coastal Engineering.
“Mark has been working with the Town since before we became a Town, he’s done a number of projects around here including the mooring field,” Scott said. “The Town is still researching funding sources. We’ve been turned down by a number of different agencies including the TDC (Tourist and Development Council), but we’ve got one out there from the DEP – this grant opens September 1st – that one we’re hoping for.”
The dock, which sat at the end of Hercules’ bay access for as long as anyone can remember, was torn down last year when the Town received a complaint. Baker told the residents he does not know who called it in, only that he had to act on it lest the Town get sued.
“All I know is, we sent out an inspector, we were told the dock was dangerous and we were liable, so we tore it down. The Town gets sued all the time – we couldn’t risk it.”
Hosafros reminded everyone that the point of the meeting was not to ‘dwell on the past’ but rather to work with the Town to get the dock replaced.
“The process to get the dock … we’re looking at a good year before we start construction,” Baker said. “It’s not the same as with a residential dock, this one is on community property, so we have to follow those rules – that’s a state law, not ours.”
Kincaid explained that, since the state owns the water beneath the dock, that land must be leased from them.
“That lease did not exist before, so the old dock wasn’t legal,” Kincaid explained.
Mark said there would be an annual fee, and that fee varies depending on the size of the dock.
“Let’s say it’s been $600/$1200 year, if the Town were to apply for that lease and the dock would be open for the public to use, we could probably get that fee waived,” he said.
Another resident asked if the neighborhood association could lease the Town’s Right of Way at the access and build the dock themselves, and Baker said the Town Attorney is looking into ways to do that.
Hosafros said she lives near a dedicated beach access that was deeded to the residents a long time ago and now no one takes care of it.
“It’s a tenuous situation,” she said. “You all might be responsible, but who’s to say 30 years from now?”
Baker said that – no matter what existed before – the Town must build a dock that’s up to standard and follows all the rules. He asked what Hercules residents wanted at the bay access so that the Town could do the research and figure out how to do it.
The residents were in agreement on what they wanted: no boat dockage, able to use for fishing, that the dock be the same dimensions as before – 35’ by 12’ – and have a picnic table.
“The first thing we need to do – should Council approve – is to get the design work done,” Scott said, and Chelsea added that having a design would be very helpful in getting a grant.
Hosafros told the residents that funding for the dock has gone in and out of the budget as talks continue. She urged residents to ask council members to put money in the budget to get the process started before each of four council meetings in August and September, noting that even if the grant were awarded, the Town must provide matching funds.
Baker estimated the design and permitting would cost around $16,000.
Hosafros said that – even if the Town granted the residents an easement – the Town would still own the land.
“We could vacate it, but that would mean each neighbor on either side would own half – you would never get it to have a separate strap number, a separate lot, because then someone could build on it,” Baker explained.
Another resident asked if – should the grant be received but Council not approve the matching funds – the neighbors could raise that amount, and Scott said yes.
“You’d need to give it to the Town and dedicate it to the dock,” he said. “Or pier – it might be better if we start calling it that.”
The Hercules Drive meeting was the first of five scheduled bay access meetings hosted by the Town to discuss options for bay accesses. Next Wednesday at 5pm, staff will hold a meeting with the residents of Coconut Street, who also lost their dock. Additional meetings are scheduled for Amberjack Drive on July 6, Delmar Avenue July 14 and Bayside Park July 20th.
Keri Hendry Weeg