The Mathews County Wetlands Board approved some parts of a Mathews County Land Conservancy application for construction at Williams Wharf Landing after a public hearing Tuesday, Jan. 8, but it denied one part of the project and tabled action on two other parts.
The conservancy had requested a permit for extensive construction, to include extension of one pier, demolition and replacement of several other piers, placement of riprap and bulkhead along the northern shoreline, and the building of a large, two-story rowing center and sailing club out over the water.
The board approved demolition of existing piers, construction of a T-head pier on the western side of the property and two fixed piers leading to floating docks on the north side of the property, and placement of riprap revetment to stabilize the northern shoreline. It denied a request to allow an existing bulkhead to remain behind the proposed riprap revetment.
A request for extension of the fixed pier leading to the existing floating dock was tabled, along with the proposal for the rowing center and sailing club.
During the public hearing, MCLC president Jim Smith asked for approval of the project, pointing out that MCLC volunteers had spent 20 years cleaning up the property, tearing down old buildings, stabilizing the shoreline, and creating an outdoor space that can be used by the community for rowing, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, picnicking and other activities.
He said that the site of the proposed facility had previously been occupied by a building that had been used as an oil company office, had asbestos siding and broken windows, and was inadequate in size. He said it was too small to store rowing shells and wasn’t adequate for the ergonomic equipment used for crew practice. Because of setback requirements, moving the building inland would result in "a teeny building in the middle of the lot."
When the high school rowing program began, said Smith, "we had a few shells, a little money, and a place to row, but you can’t put a 60-foot shell in a 40-foot building." Since then, he said, crew members have earned $3.25 million in scholarships and the program has expanded into a community program that includes the Mobjack Rowing Club and learn-to-row programs.