B&B on the Sea

August 30th, 2010 by Mariah

US Coast Guard Tower To Be Bed And Breakfast By 2012…..Though he has not set foot on it yet, a Mint Hill man on Wednesday took ownership of an abandoned light tower 25 miles off the southeastern N.C. coast. He paid $85,000 for it. He intends to turn the tower into a high-seas bed-and-breakfast and corporate retreat starting next summer.


Software sales engineer Richard Neal picked up the Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower at a federal government auction in May with the only sealed bid. He then put down 20 percent.


Neal, 50, said his first task as owner is, within a week or so, to send skilled volunteers to inspect the 44-year-old, rusting tower, its electrical system and living quarters. The group will also post “Keep Off/Private Property” signs.


Neal won’t be among the group of electricians at electricianperth, mechanics and architects because he’s scheduled to be in Europe on a sales trip during that period. He says he hopes to get aboard the structure with seven bedrooms, a kitchen, recreation room and helicopter landing platform by mid-September.


“I am feeling thrilled, exuberant, of having something that will impact so many people positively,” he said Wednesday.


The General Services Administration, which auctioned off the tower, is sending Neal a bill of sale, according to Lou Mancuso, GSA official who handled the auction. The deal was finalized Wednesday. “He’s in possession,” Mancuso said from Atlanta.


The tower went up in 1966 at a cost of $2 million. The U.S. Coast Guard automated it in 1979, eliminating the need for the four-man crew, and deactivated it in 2003. Neal owns the tower but not the seabed beneath. Asked if he got a key, as one would get on closing for a house, Neal replied no. “My understanding is, it’s unlocked.”


Neal and Mancuso said the bill of sale provides that Neal can use the tower for anything he wants so long as he complies with federal rules and regulations and any applicable state laws. Neal has said he does not intend to open an offshore casino. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Wilmington would issue permits for restoration and modifications.


He’s arranged for liability insurance, which would cover anyone injured on the tower, at an annual premium that he pegged as midway between $30,000 and $85,000.


An engineering study arranged last winter by the Coast Guard noted corrosion but concludes the tower overall is in “satisfactory condition.” The study estimated repairs at $1.37 million. But Neal said he’s been told by a local contractor who’s worked on the tower that restoration could be done at half that cost. He has no estimate yet on improvements.


Neal has been taking reservations for stays at the tower on his web site, www.fptower.com, to gauge the market. But he said he’s taken no deposits. So far, he said, he’s gotten interest from 13 families and businesses for extended stays.


He aims to open the tower for multi-night rentals with meals for anglers on sport fishing boats beginning next summer. From Southport or Wilmington, sport fishing boats can reach the tower in about an hour and a half.


By the summer of 2012, Neal plans upgrades that will allow longer-stay vacations and corporate retreats 60 feet above the waves of the Atlantic.

Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/08/25/1643139/off-sea-tower-now-in-local-hands.html#ixzz0y6dzgiJN