A public meeting was held on July 29th about the rebuilding and relocation of New Bern’s Stanley White Recreation Center. PRE's Ashlyn DeLoughy has more on the project.
After Hurricane Florence damaged the Stanley White Recreation Center in 2018, the City of New Bern applied for FEMA’s Public Assistance grant program to rebuild. Now almost three years later, a public meeting was held to provide an overview of the draft of the environmental assessment (EA) and collect public comments.
Over the last six to nine months, the architecture and engineering firm CPL, has been developing this Draft EA for FEMA. The Draft EA summarizes the purpose of and need for the project, alternatives considered, the affected environment and the project’s potential environmental consequences.
As part of this process, CPL is leading the design of the new facility as well as public involvement initiatives. Through focus groups and small group meetings with representatives of the greater Duffyfield neighborhood, city department, nonprofit entities, etc. project manager Reggie Scales says the CPL team developed a greater understanding of the communities needs.
“That [original] facility was constructed in 1976 and so as you would imagine, societal needs, neighborhood needs are different in 2021 than they were in 1976. This is an opportunity to develop a facility that is much more relevant to the needs of the neighborhood and the community today.”
Reconstruction of the 46-year-old facility on its original site would not alleviate the risk of future flooding due to its location within the floodplain. FEMA has proposed to fund the replacement of the original Stanley White Recreation Center with a new recreation facility at a location outside of the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). As outlined in the draft EA, the Stanley White Recreation Center would be replaced with a comparable facility on a plot of land 3.4 acres southwest of the original site between Gaston Boulevard and Broad Street.
“The proposed facility will be two stories and it'll be about 36,000, square feet. The thing about that is it almost doubles in size from 18,000 to 36,000 square feet with about 128 parking spaces, and a larger facility that is more relevant to the needs of the neighborhood in the community today.”
The comment period for the Draft EA will end on Aug. 15, which is 30 days after its initial publication. All comments will be evaluated by FEMA and those that require a response will be addressed accordingly. From there, FEMA will make the determination of whether or not they need to go back and get additional detail on those substantial comments or close the process and make the environmental assessment final with its associated Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).
“It is acknowledged and recognized the importance of this facility to the greater Delfield neighborhood but also really the city of New Bern and the entire area of Craven County is critically important. And so with that being the case, it is understood that passions will show up and that's okay. That's a part of the process, but anytime we get a chance to go out and talk to those key stakeholders who are directly impacted by this process, everybody benefits.”
Thursday’s public meeting took place from 7pm to 9pm at the Omega Center in New Bern. FEMA representatives attended the meeting in person and collected public comments.
An online copy of the draft environmental assessment can be found on the FEMA website. Printed copies are also available at the Omega Center from 8am-5pm Monday through Friday, City Hall on Pollock street 8am-5pm Monday through Friday and the New Bern Craven County Public Library Monday through Wednesday 9am-7pm and Saturday from 9am-6pm.
“We want everybody to understand that your comments are not falling on deaf ears. They are being heard. And if you look at the document in terms of not just the new facility, but what is going inside that facility that comes directly from the greater Duffyfield neighborhood.”
More information on the project’s timeline and comment period can be found here.