Topsail Beach commissioners have agreed to accept a state park grant to build the Town Center park.
A 3-2 vote Jan. 22 followed months of what has become a highly contentious debate in the town.
Topsail Beach will accept the $439,910 grant from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Commission pending legal review of the contract. Town Manager Tim Holloman said the town should receive the contract by Feb. 1.
The meeting followed the board’s regular one earlier this month when commissioners tabled a decision at the request of Commissioner Morton Blanchard.
Blanchard, who was elected to the board in November, asked for more time to talk with property owners about the proposed park.
“It’s been a heck of a two weeks,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of input. It was really quite an experience to hear both ends. I’ve looked at this thing and tried to do my own fact-finding.”
The facts, Blanchard said, are that the board twice voted unanimously to apply for the grant. All but one board member, Commissioner Julian Bone, approved spending $500,000 to buy land in the center of town for the purpose of building a park.
“I just feel like this thing should go ahead,” Blanchard said.
He and commissioners Larry Combs and Linda Stipe voted to accept the grant as long as a review of the contract reveals no surprises. Commissioners Tom Eggleston and Bone opposed the motion.
“It’s been a difficult issue,” Combs said. “This is something that has been planned for a long, long time. I think we’ve been very fortunate that that grant has materialized. Economically it is allowing us to do something that we could not do.”
Once the contract is signed, the town will be reimbursed $250,000 – half of what the town paid for a one-acre lot at Davis Avenue and Anderson Boulevard for the park.
Preliminary plans for the park include public restrooms, a playground and parking.
Topsail Beach was one of 14 out of 73 applicants to receive a portion of the $4.4 million grant.
“I know the competition we were up against to be selected and awarded this grant,” said Pat Braxton, the wife of Mayor Howard Braxton. “What an honor that we were selected by those individuals. To refuse to accept this grant, which was professionally written for us, it would close the door to many future opportunities.”