Oak Island votes to buy Yaupon Beach Pier

The town of Oak Island voted to purchase Yaupon Pier, contingent upon public funds becoming available.

Some residents oppose, some approve decision

Oak Island‘s town Council voted Nov. 14 to buy Yaupon Beach Pier for $1.5 million.

Councilman Jeff Ensminger’s motion made the purchase contingent upon getting necessary financing and approval through the Local Government Commission. His motion also noted the town may lease the property to a second party to operate.

Councilpersons Ensminger, Mary Snead and John Ramsey voted for the motion while Bob Seidel and Dara Royal voted against. Royal said she would rather have the town do a conservation easement instead of buying the pier. Seidel was concerned about operating costs (which haven’t been discussed).

Ramsey said the pier brings tourists to Oak Island. “We all forget sometimes Oak Island is basically kept up because it’s a tourist destination,” he said during the meeting.

Town manager Jerry Walters said the town would work with pier owner Cooperative Bank to set a closing date. After an unresolved bidding war between the town and private investors, the pier was returned to Cooperative Bank in March for $1,649,000.

Answering criticism the pier would need millions of dollars in repairs, Ensminger said the town’s public-works director estimated repairs would cost about $185,000. He also said he’d heard nothing from the public except requests to buy the pier.

Several residents told a different story.

Resident Jack Moore said buying the pier was a “terrible mistake.” The reason the price of the pier had come down $500,000 was because no one wanted it, he said. “You need to be looking ahead because the revenues will not be there. You’re not going to put this to a (public) vote because you know it’s not going to pass.”

Ocean Crest Pier manager Dave Cooper expressed his opposition to the town going into competition with his privately-run pier.

“We have not asked the citizens of Oak Island for one penny to operate our pier,” he said.

Resident Betty Hupp said the town shouldn’t compete with a private business. “This town does not need to manage a pier,” she said.

While most comments opposed buying the pier, charter-boat captain Vanessa Martin spoke on behalf of anglers who want the town to buy the pier. Martin criticized many in the packed meeting room, saying there were a lot of “mad people” at Oak Island.

“One of the reasons we moved here was the piers on Oak Island,” she said. “I want my tax dollars to buy the Yaupon Pier.” Her comments sparked clapping, but also some negative responses.

Outside the meeting, a group of residents expressed how happy they were with council’s decision.

Richard Mabe said, with Yaupon Pier being closed, he missed the social aspect the pier offerred. “It takes you two hours to walk to the end of the pier,” he said to a State Port Pilot reporter.

Steve and Deanna Peloza were married July 7, 2007, at the end of Yaupon Pier. Before they moved here a year ago, they traveled to the island from Fayetteville every weekend to fish from the pier. Now that they live across the street, they told a State Port Pilot reporter it’s been sad and depressing to look at an empty pier.

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