WILMINGTON -- There seemed to be no end to the exhibits entered during a recent Development Review Board hearing.

"This has been an incredible journey in trying to put everything together," said Cliff Duncan, the applicant seeking DRB approval so that the owners of Zoar Outdoors can ultimately purchase his 36 West Main St. building.

On March 25, Duncan thanked the board for holding a special meeting to conclude the hearing. Opening the "adventure center" in Wilmington has become a major goal in recent economic development efforts to fill vacant buildings downtown.

DRB Chairwoman Nicki Steel pointed out that with Zoning Administrator Alice Herrick's resignation effective on Friday, it may be difficult to issue the written decision as quickly as usual. Steel mentioned that the board counts on administrative support to fine tune its written decision and send it out. The board has 45 days to do so.

"We are put in a very hard position," she concluded.

Duncan explained that there were new estimates for costs associated with repairs and renovations compared to the exhibits entered at the start of the hearing a week earlier. There also was a change of plans for the exterior of the building.

He had received a permit through Herrick that was active through this year but was extended so it will remain active until April 2016.

"It was previously applied for under interim flood regulations," confirmed Steel. "A lot of the work people did came under those administratively approved permits.


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The permit indicated what type of damage the building had suffered during Tropical Storm Irene. It included estimated costs of electrical, plumbing and other repairs.

Interpreting FEMA regulations as well as determining the market value of the building will be other matters for the DRB to consider as it drafts its decision.

In one of his own interpretations, Duncan believed that the amount -- $18,932 -- approved in Herrick's permit could be combined with the lister's appraisal of the building before Tropical Storm Irene -- $105,000 -- so that it would be likelier his project would come in under 50 percent of the building's market value. That would essentially keep the project in compliance with floodplain management requirements.

"If he wanted to spend more money, he would have to elevate the building and do some of the flood proofing things," said Herrick. "He actually made several different cases for ways to find the market value. I don't know how the board is going to decide."

Listers had lowered appraisals of buildings in the downtown approximately a year after the storm. Duncan's building was believed to be worth approximately $75,000. All of the listers' appraisals mentioned were only for the building, not the property.

Herrick referred to Agency of Natural Resource Floodplain Manager Josh Carvajal's thoughts that were stated in his letter.

"Because the work was authorized, but it didn't take place in that year but presumably in 2014, it needs to be in the current calculations. It's a combined repair of damage and improvement," she said. "You do both at once."

Although Duncan and Bruce Lessels, of Zoar, both mentioned that the roof was the only thing that could perhaps wait, it was a job that they wanted to see done along with the other repairs.

"Could we live with a leaky roof? Wilmington High School did for a long time," said Duncan. "That's not what we want to do. We don't want to put all this money in to have a leaky ceiling."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.