Nags Head Ferris wheel wins one-season trial run

By on January 18, 2013

(Boardwalk Attractions photo.)

Split on the prospect of flashing lights rotating 55 feet above the town, Nags Head commissioners have decided take a Ferris wheel for a one-season test spin.

The Board of Commissioners had already made a zoning exception allowing a Ferris wheel at Full Throttle Speedway to rise above the 35-foot height limit.

On Wednesday, discussion focused on the ride’s flashing lights, which are prohibited at any height in town.

The Planning Board supported allowing flashing lights only below 20 feet for rides that might be added in the future. A second option would be allowing an exemption for all the rides, including the Ferris wheel.

Full Throttle owner Darnell Tillett told the board that the 55-foot ferris wheel he is leasing is equipped with flashing lights and disabling them would be difficult and expensive.

Commissioner Doug Remaley suggested more flexibility, saying that since Dowdy’s in Nags Head across from the Family YMCA closed years ago, he has heard numerous complaints that kids have nowhere to go.

“I think we should do everything we can possibly to do help,” he said.

No one showed up to speak at a public hearing, but Commissioner Anna Sadler said she had heard concerns about the possibility of flashing lights in the night sky at roughly the height of the South Nags Head Comfort Inn.

“We also need to take in consideration the people that live here in the summer as well as the winter that perhaps would not be using the amusement rides,” she said.

On the suggestion of Commissioner Renee Cahoon, the board compromised, passing a zoning amendment that allows flashing lights for rides below 35 feet and for one above that, which would exempt the ferris wheel from the town prohibition.

Sadler said she could go along with the trial period, thus providing the required super majority, or in this case, a unanimous vote. Commissioner Susie Walters was absent, but indicated in an e-mail that she would support making accommodations for the ride.

The Ferris wheel would be permitted from May 15 to Sept. 15. Tillett hopes to have it running this season. Full Throttle is on U.S. 158 at milepost 15.5.

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