Hotel idea put into the mix for Windmill Point

By on December 16, 2010

Tourism officials are looking at a lot that now includes a miniature golf course.

Engineers will look at whether it will be possible to build a 150-room hotel and restaurant at Windmill Point in conjunction with a multi-use center envisioned by the county’s tourism authority.

The idea was discussed Thursday by the Dare County Tourism Board, which is trying to determine the best use for the 17-plus acres on the Nags Head soundfront.

“We’re just exploring all options here,” said board member Ralph Buxton.

The board approved paying Albemarle and Associates an additional $2,000 to see if buying another piece of land on the northern edge of the property would open up more possibilities for the site.

Research on whether the property could support a hotel and restaurant will be included in a conceptual site plan that the firm is already developing for the tourism authority.

The additional tract, roughly 4 acres, is behind the Dairy Queen and includes a miniature golf course. It would probably be used as an upland septic drain field.

Septic capacity is key to whatever happens at the site. Board member Brian McDonald said that the existing septic field can handle a multi-use center accommodating up to 1,500 people. Such a center has been the centerpiece of long-term plans by tourism officials.

Land being eyed by tourism officials is north of Windmill Point on the Albemarle Sound.

Lee Nettles, managing director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, told the board that the idea of a 150-room hotel and 40-seat restaurant was based on septic capacity at the site with a pre-treatment operation. He said Albemarle and Associates’ findings would determine whether the idea is even worth further discussion.

Sterling Webster, a hotelier who is on the board, said that a developer might see building a sewage treatment system as a worthwhile investment. Possibilities, he said, could include selling the property to a private developer with an agreement for public use. That would eliminate the trouble and expense of operating a multi-use facility while adding to the tax rolls, he said.

“On the other side of the coin, though, you would give up some community use,” he said. “So I don’t think you ought to ditch one plan versus the other.”

Webster said he was in favor of the idea for a hotel in the long term because the south end of the beach “needs something.” But he added that a fellow hotelier who owns 20 properties, including one in Wilmington, told him he “wouldn’t want to build anything right this minute.”

Negative reactions to the idea of a convention center led to discussion of what tourism officials now describe as a multi-use center, which is considered to be smaller. Albemarle and Associates basically is looking at variations on a footprint for the facility, septic fields and parking, and how they all would fit in with zoning.

The Windmill Point tract is owned by the tourism board and the Town of Nags Head. It consists of several lots, one of which was the site of the old Windmill Point restaurant. The abandoned restaurant building is still there, but the reproduction of an 18th-century windmill has been moved for eventual use at Island Farm outside Manteo.

Artifacts from the S.S. United States, which set trans-Atlantic records, were a distinguishing feature of the restaurant.

Meanwhile, the board’s Windmill Point Committee recommended against using the old Seamark grocery store at the Outer Banks Mall as a gathering space. McDonald, who chairs the committee, reported that it would involve a five-year lease at $318,000 annually and some upgrades.

The committee also recommended against leasing a flexible building like the Pavilion at the Wright Brothers National Memorial. It would cost $216,000 annually for three years and $168,000 annually for five years.

A flexible building had been proposed as a possibility for temporary use of the Windmill Point site.

“The committee will work to develop a near-term plan, for board and Town of Nags Head consideration, to use the green space at WMP for events and activities,” the panel wrote in a memo.

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