Ferris wheel could be running by Memorial Day

By on December 6, 2012

(Boardwalk Attractions photo)

Nags Head commissioners have approved a zoning amendment that paves the way for a 55-foot Ferris wheel at Full Throttle Speedway, a go-kart track on U.S. 158 at milepost 15.5.

Track owner Darnell Tillett submitted the request to allow outdoor amusements as an accessory use to his business.

Tillett said he would like to have the ride running by Memorial Day.

“We want to start off by catering to the young kids with the Ferris wheel, which is really the icon of all amusement parks and is a tame family ride more or less,” he said Wednesday.

The Ferris wheel would be raised by Memorial Day weekend and would come down at the end of the summer

Commissioners approved an amendment to allow outdoor amusements throughout the commercial-outdoor recreational uses overlay district, which stretches along the bypass from Forbes Street near the old Windmill Point site south and across the causeway. The district includes a little more than 40 properties.

Full approval is pending submission by the Planning Board of lighting standards. In the past, town officials have been very strict about lighting.

“We don’t want to throw the door open to flashing lights. but if there is a workable compromise out there, we will try to find it,” Planning and Development Director Elizabeth Teague said.

Planners are expected to recommend a lighting plan to commissioners sometime in January, Teague said. This would give Tillett enough time to have the Ferris wheel operatiing by summertime.

“We want to start off small and let it grow as needed,” Tillett said Wednesday, adding that he would like to eventually expand the operation with more amusement rides. “We want to get feedback from customers, the town and citizens and then see where it goes over the years.”

Tillett, who also owns Mutiny Bay Adventure Golf in the same district, is considering several vendors for the ride. The Hampton Roads-based Boardwalk Attractions is among them.

Currently the height limit in the district is 35 feet. Under the amendment, it would be increased to 60 feet to allow for the Ferris wheel. The amendment also addresses setback and parking requirements for outdoor amusements.

“We received a lot of positive feedback after the town’s carnival this summer,” said Teague, referring to the 50th anniversary carnival the town hosted in July at the old Windmill Point site.

“At the planning board level, we recognize that this is a tourist destination and based on the success of the carnival, we know there is a desire to have amusement rides,” she said. “But we need to balance this with the land use plan we’ve worked so hard on.”

The popular Dowdy’s Amusement Park at milepost 11 closed several years ago after being in operation since the 1960s. It was the only park of its kind on the northern Outer Banks. The property is now for sale.

Teague said Dowdy’s was often a source of contention from nearby neighbors due to noise and lighting. She added that district where the Ferris wheel is proposed was created specifically for outdoor recreation to avoid affecting homes.

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