CORNELIUS â€“ Members of the Lake Norman Marine Commission (LNMC) faced a packed house Monday night on the question of whether to approve a variance request for Stutts Marina, which is located at the end of Brawley School Road in Mooresville.
â€œIn this request, the proposal is to rebuild the docks to the same length but make them to accommodate larger boats,â€ said commission executive director Ron Smith.
The Iredell County commission representative, Mark Lancaster, recused himself from both the public hearing and subsequent vote on the matter.
â€œIf this variance is eventually approved by Iredell County Commissioners, Iâ€™ll be rebuilding these boat slips,â€ he said after the meeting.
Richard Brolin, who is with Piedmont Design Associates, told the crowd that by redoing the boat slips, it would stop all construction activities at the end of the boat slip and would make things safer around the Shoreline Loop area of the lake.
â€œThe slips will be designed for boats 18-20 feet and the work begins whenever we can get our permits,â€ said Brolin.
He also says that the new slips will be able to accommodate wider boats.
â€œThere will be a replacement of existing facilities,â€ said Brolin. â€œEverything will stay within the same specifications as they are now. There will be no expansion.â€
According to Brolin, Stutts Marina was constructed in 1964 when there were no regulations on boat slips.
â€œBecause the slips are so old, weâ€™re renovating them,â€ he said.
Susan Boyer, a resident who lives near the marina on Shoreline Loop, thinks something else is going on besides remodeling boat slips.
â€œThe owners are trying to make a specialized marina where the common manâ€™s going to be squeezed out,â€ she said.
Gus Gustafson, said residents and the marina owners need to work together so people can have lake access. Gustafson is a freelance columnist whose works appear in the Lincoln Times-News and other area publications.
â€œI live and fish on the lake and Stutts has been there for a very long time,â€ he said.
â€œMy fear,â€ he continued, â€œis that weâ€™re going to lose another part of the lake. There are thousands of people who need access to the lake that donâ€™t live on the lake.â€
Gustafson further urged all parties work together to come up with something.
Thomas Joy lives directly across from the covered slips three are at the center of the variance controversy.
â€œThere are 24 boats housed there that are 48 feet long each,â€ he said. â€œThey have to make wide turns to get into the slips.
â€œEven longer boats using the slips would cause a greater safety issue,â€ he continued. â€œThe pilots of these boats canâ€™t see people swimming and enjoying the lake. We also run a higher risk of more damage to our properties due to the waves caused by these boats.â€
Catawba Countyâ€™s commissioner, Earl Kiser, said the commission is looking at this issue from a revitalization standpoint.
â€œBoats having a problem turning into slips have been a problem long before now,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m making a motion the variance be accepted as submitted contingent on that boat slips remain covered and the area stays the same.â€
Lincoln County L.N.M.C. Commissioner Mac Byrum seconded Kiserâ€™s motion with a stipulation of his own.
â€œWe need to have no-wake buoys,â€ he said. â€œYou canâ€™t throw a wave from your boat around a no-wake buoy. If a property owner catches you, they can call law enforcement and have the boater arrested.
Itâ€™s like a speed limit sign, he continued.
In the end, with Lancaster abstaining, the commission approved the variance.
With LNMC approval, the developer could start construction on the boat slips according to commission chairman Terry Davis.
â€œThe developer may want to get the whole project approved and do everything at one time, so now theyâ€™ll have to file an Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (F.E.R.C.) plan,â€ said Davis.
Davis added that the plan will need to go through 12 commenting agencies before final approval on the project is issued.
â€œIt could take from six months to a year for the developer to get a special use permit,â€ said Davis.
Davis also stated that while the length of the boat slips in question are not going to change, the developer had to apply for a variance because the slips were grandfathered in under previous lake regulations.
Also incumbent upon the developer would be to do any renovations or improvements to those existing boat slips required coming into compliance with the current code.
Want to go?
The next meeting of the Lake Norman Marine Commission will be Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. at Cornelius Town Hall.
From Lincolnton, take N.C. 150 East to I-77 in Mooresville. Take I-77 south to exit 28 and take a left at the end of the ramp. Drive through downtown Cornelius and the town hall will be on your left.
by Jon Mayhew