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Pawleys Island: Old Town Hall gets repairs, new one gets architect
By Nikki Best
On the six-month anniversary of Hurricane Matthew, the Pawleys Island Town Council decided what to do with the damaged Town Hall.
“I recommend we go ahead and repair it,” Council Member Mike Adams said.
The ayes had it and what the mayor called “six months of pure confusion” ended with the decision to move forward on repairs to the old building. However the decision did not end work on a new Town Hall.
“Could we not do both?” Council Member Sarah Zimmerman asked.
The new Town Hall project will continue on its current path. The funding may come from a FEMA grant. If not, Town Administrator Ryan Fabbri believes he can find other funding for the new building.
“I’m going to pursue every single grant opportunity, not just FEMA grants,” he said.
The town wants to close Pavilion Lane adjacent to the Nature Park and build the new Town Hall in the road right of way. That would keep the new facility close to the old one.
While it is a state road, the land under the road belongs to the nonprofit Pawleys Pavilion Co., Town Attorney David DuRant said. The property was the site of the last of several dance halls to bear the name.
The nonprofit leases the Nature Park to the town and it is willing to help with a lease of the road right of way, if the state agrees to close the road.
“A ground lease, where the town can lease back property for some nominal amount of money over a 50-year period or something along those lines,” DuRant said.
The lease of the property could be up to 99 years. DuRant has been in contact with Benton Williamson, who is the attorney for, and president of, the Pawleys Pavilion Co. board. The board has not held a meeting yet, so the possibility of a long-term lease is speculative and details are still left to be determined. The council will enter into a discussion with the pavilion company board and proceed from there. “I think I agree with a very long lease,” Mayor Bill Otis said. “I think that can make sense for us.”
Town Council and Planning Commission members will meet Monday with the three architectural firms chosen to design the new Town Hall.
When it comes to the repair and restoration of the old Town Hall, uncertainty surrounds the actual value of the structure and creekfront property where it sits. The town received independent federal and county estimates for the damages and value of the structure, but there is conflict in the numbers. Finding the market value for the property is difficult, Fabbri said.
“How do you come up with the value of a town hall structure,” he said. “It’s not a residential property. There’s no business properties here on the island. It’s a tough situation.”
The National Flood Insurance Program valued the building at $57,000 and estimated the repairs to be $22,000. NFIP sent a check to the town for $19,414 for its claim. In January, an appraiser valued the building at $30,184 and repair costs were estimated by Seaspray Homes at $14,363, Fabbri said.
“That’s such a significant difference,” Council Member Ashley Carter said. “We don’t like appraisals that far apart.”
Town Hall is considered an “existing construction” under the flood damage prevention code. The percentage of damage done to the property matters because the local flood ordinance adds repair costs cumulatively over a five year period. If the building’s value was officially deemed $30,184 and hurricane repairs cost $14,363, that’s 47.5 percent of the value spent in one fell swoop. That would leave only $729 for any maintenance or repair until the 5- year term is completed.
Once the repairs exceed 50 percent, they are, by law, considered “substantial improvements” and the building would no longer fall under pre-1975 existing construction and would have to comply with current hazard and flood plain ordinances. There would be very little money for maintenance or if another storm came through, Fabbri said.
“We’d really have our back up against the wall,” he said.
Another concern about repairing old Town Hall is that there is a real possibility that if a FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant is awarded to help fund the new town hall, it may come with a stipulation that old Town Hall must be removed. “In which case, you might have spent $14,000 you didn’t need to,” Otis said.
Following the complex application, it would take a year or more for any money to be awarded if the town qualifies for funding.
Despite misgivings, the council chose to move forward with repair to preserve the building based on current estimates.
“That land, if we don’t rebuild the building, it has no value,” Fabbri said. “You can’t rebuild on that.”
Council feels that once the building is repaired it will be used, but for what remains to be seen.
“I think we can make some sort of productive use for it,” Adams said.
The town will post a request for bids to repair the Town Hall. The timeline for repairs has not been established.
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