Panel focuses on plans for Windmill Point

By on August 11, 2010

The old restaurant will be used for fire training or torn down. (Voice photo)

A farmers market, a temporary structure or doing nothing at all were among the ideas floated in a discussion about what to do with the old Windmill Point restaurant property until something permanent is in place.

One thing that is not likely to be put there is a convention center.

The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau and the town of Nags Head instead are talking about a multi-use facility that could handle smaller functions of 1,000 to 1,200 people. Nothing has been formalized, but a committee recommended Tuesday that the Dare County Tourism Board endorse a resolution reaffirming its goal to eventually build one.

Planning should be thought out in a sequence that articulates “a long-term vision for the site,” Lee Nettles, managing director of the visitors bureau, told the tourism board’s Windmill Point Committee.

A discussion by the committee centered on an incremental approach that would start with the basics — such as getting fill for the sound-front property. Nettles told the committee that Southern Shores needs somewhere to put about 34,000 cubic yards of dredge spoil from the second phase of its canal dredging project, which is still a couple of years off.

That could save money and help both parties, but there are many unknowns, including how long the spoil would have to sit unused before it would meet environmental standards. It also would probably not be suitable for use under a building.

Another option would be to take advantage of low prices on the open market and buy clean fill sand as soon as possible.

The committee recommended that the tourism board hire Albemarle & Associates to come up with three conceptual plans for the site that would consider options for where to put a building, parking and outdoor areas. That information would help determine where fill would eventually need to go. It would take 45 days to develop.

Including adjacent land previously acquired by the town and the tourism board, the tract is about 17 acres. Plans are to move the old windmill to Island Farm on Roanoke Island. Nags Head wants to use the restaurant building for fire training, but the tourism board has not yet signed off on that idea.

The existing septic system could handle a building of up to 45,000 square feet. Committee member Anna Sadler, who is also a Nags head commissioner, said town zoning would allow a structure of up to 39,000 square feet. Changes in parking requirements would be needed to allow a larger building.

One concept would be to build a facility in the 30,000-square-foot range that could be expanded later.

Building a convention center on the site has been discussed in the past, but it’s still a touchy subject even though the idea appears to be off the table. Members of the committee expressed concerns that their deliberations would be perceived as an imminent plan for the property. The committee is an advisory panel and any decisions must be made by the tourism board, which oversees the visitors bureau, and the Nags Head Board of Commissioners.

Committee member Sterling Webster said that the Outer Banks is not a primary convention destination “and never will be.”

“But we have nowhere on the Outer Banks to sit a thousand people,” he said.

What to do with the property in the meantime is still up in the air. Nags Head Town Manager Cliff Ogburn suggested that “maybe that answer is nothing.”

Committee Chairman Brian McDonald suggested a farmers market.

Ralph Buxton, another committee member, said he contacted Sprung Instant Structures, which erected the Pavilion at the Wright Brothers National Memorial for the 2003 First Flight Centennial. It was intended as a temporary structure but is still in use.

Buxton said that the company offers a variety of temporary buildings, including some with windows.

“Some of these structures can be very attractive,” Buxton said.

The company, he said, also leases structures. Buxton said that could be a way for the town and the tourism board to test the waters for an eventual use of the property.

“With this kind of approach,” he said, “you can do that.”

Related stories:

Plan would use Windmill Point for fire training »

Another chapter unfolds for Windmill Point’s icon »

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