This report has been updated.
MOREHEAD CITY – A hunting and fishing club is challenging a Morehead City applicant’s recently approved shellfish lease in South River in Carteret County.
The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission’s Shellfish Cultivation Lease Review Committee is set to meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 18, at the Division of Marine Fisheries’ office at 5285 U.S. Highway 70 West, Morehead City.
The meeting is to decide on a third-party hearing request Morehead City attorney Robert Pike submitted May 4 on behalf of Lukens Island Timber Enterprises, LLC, challenging the potential lease to Changing Tide Renovations, LLC, a home improvement company registered to Charles Chris Allen of Morehead City.
The meeting will be held in-person only, and there will not be an opportunity for public comment.
Division of Marine Fisheries Director Kathy B. Rawls approved the 3.72-acre bottom lease and water-column lease April 5, after a public hearing was held Feb. 15.
Lukens Island Timber Enterprises, among other objections, contends that its riparian rights are infringed upon by the lease. The hunting and fishing club said that it has owned the adjoining property since 1991 and has built ramps, piers, docks, paths, duck blinds and has a clubhouse that accommodates as many as 40 people.
The club’s request also notes that the lease would affect its waterfront development plans.
Doug Brady, a Carteret County developer and member of Lukens Island Hunting Club, spoke at the hearing, saying that while he was supportive of the mariculture and shellfish industry, “I do think that in granting these leases though, it is paramount that siting of them minimizes user conflicts,” according to the minutes from the meeting.
Chris Matteo, head of the North Carolina Shellfish Grower’s Association, also spoke during the hearing but in support of the lease. Matteo said he operates a farm in Pamlico County that’s surrounded by a 6,400-acre hunt club. “They’re primarily duck hunters, we coexist nicely,” he’s quoted as saying in the minutes. He also noted that Lukens was abandoned about 110 years ago, and there’s been no development there since.
Allen notes in his application that he has experience in harvesting wild oysters and plans to enroll in the mariculture program at Carteret Community College in Morehead City in the fall.
Division Shellfish Lease and Aquaculture Program Coordinator Owen Mulvey-McFerron told Coastal Review that Allen had since completed the course.
During the meeting, Division of Marine Fisheries staff will provide a brief, preliminary overview and orientation regarding the lease. Afterward, the committee will hear oral arguments from the petitioner, division staff, and the lessee, and will deliberate and vote on an outcome.