By Kip Tabb | Outer Banks Voice on October 18, 2022
A little over six months since the town of Kitty Hawk passed a resolution supporting a Wright Brothers Tribute Museum, the town has informed the developer, Bill Cress, that it will not be moving forward with him on the project. The museum was slated to be located on 10 acres of state-owned land adjacent to the old Sentara property that was recently purchased by the town.
The proposed museum was to have been a 30,000-square-foot, two- level structure that would house a number of the early aircraft replicas that Ken Hyde and his Wright Experience team have built. Additionally, the museum would include classroom space, an observatory and small theater.
On Oct. 6, following a phone conversation with Cress, Town Manager Any Stewart sent an email to the town council stating that “I have determined there is a consensus among Town Council members that Access Aero Space LLC [the company that was to develop the land] is not the most qualified to lead the project.”
Although the letter cites a consensus among the council, Council Member Charlotte Walker, who has been the lead liaison between the town and Access Aerospace, told the Voice that Stewart “did not talk to me.”
The decision not to move forward on the project came after the call between Cress and Stewart, one that Stewart described as “direct” and that Walker, who had spoken to Cress, characterized as “contentious.” Stewart and Cress have confirmed that Stewart ended the conversation by telling Cress to take the project elsewhere.
Cress detailed the conversation, telling the Voice, “I didn’t like the way he talked to me.” He also stated that Stewart “slammed down the phone and said, ‘take it somewhere else.’”
For his part, Stewart said he called Cress to ask where the project stood. “I just called to get clarification on where he was at with the with some sort of plans for his museums as far as site plans, things that are typically done that we see from other developers that come through the town of Kitty Hawk to seek approval,” he said.
The phone call came after an Oct. 4 letter from Cress to Kitty Hawk Mayor Craig Garriss and Stewart. The letter, shared with the Voice by Walker, calls into question the town’s commitment to the project.
“As representatives of the Town of Kitty Hawk, we need to ask whether you want this project located in Kitty Hawk or not? …If you do, then you need to…help us work out the details to make this a reality,” he wrote.
Stewart, in his interview with the Voice, felt there was another concern as well. Cress had created a Gofundme page that prominently associated the museum with the town of Kitty Hawk. “Kitty Hawk’s name was on that GoFundMe advertisement,” he said. “And so I didn’t want anyone to think that this was some sort of town project being done. It’s being funded by private investors.”
The page is no longer accepting donations and according to Cress, the more than $800 raised has been returned. The GoFundMe page, he said, was designed to create seed money for the project. The March 7 resolution passed by the town council stated that “the museum will be fully funded through private investors.”
Despite the apparent decision not to move forward with the project, Stewart said that if Cress would “like to continue with it, he can come before the town council. Take the proposal to the planning board, and the town council can decide if it’s a viable project for the town.”
It certainly seems that Cress will not be choosing that option. “It will be happening,” he said of his museum project. “It’s just not going to happen in Kitty Hawk.”