Myriad of public hearings scheduled for Simpson’s last meeting

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Bob Simpson will be present during the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen meeting on Oct. 11, once more before stepping down from his post. Simpson officially retires on Nov. 1. 

The lengthy agenda will begin with a presentation by Bill Columbus, a Wrightsville Beach resident, outlining his proposal to donate the necessary audio/visual equipment to provide live streaming of town meetings on the Internet. Columbus was scheduled to give his presentation at the board’s September meeting but had to reschedule due to an unforeseen conflict. During the development of the town’s 2012-13 fiscal year budget, a majority of the board voted to withdraw its previously appropriated funds to provide for this service. 

The town’s first comprehensive Unified Development Ordinance will also be heard by the public. During the past year the town’s UDO Advisory Committee and Holland Consulting Planners drafted the document that modernizes and centralizes the town’s land development regulations and planning ordinances into one document. The public hearing will be the last chance for residents to comment on the UDO before it is adopted, but planning and parks director Tony Wilson said town staff would still be able to amend the ordinance. 

Two concerns that have been raised by Wrightsville Beach residents and business owners that will be addressed during the public hearing include reflective roofing materials and time requirements for reconstruction and repairs. Neal Briggi, a town resident, has lobbied for more detailed language to be included in the ordinance about what materials classify as nonreflective since the town does not have any such parameters and because he is currently experiencing an issue with glare from his neighbor’s metal roof on West Henderson Street. Sue Bulluck, the government relations officer for the parent company that owns the Holiday Inn Resort, sent a letter to town attorney John Wessel with another suggestion for a UDO amendment that outlines time requirements for repairs to and the reconstruction of property. 

The town’s planning department will also present a temporary solution to overcrowding at Wrightsville Beach School brokered between New Hanover County Schools and Wrightsville Beach Baptist Church to allow the school to transport two fifth grade classes to the church. This plan has passed the NHCS board and the Wrightsville Beach Planning Board. Approval of the text amendment to the town’s table of uses would grant WBS access to the church’s rooms for the remainder of the school year with the option to seek renewal of the amendment for an additional term if a permanent solution is not reached. 

In a continuation from its September meeting, the board will discuss the lease options New Hanover County offered for the use of the county’s Emergency Operations Center and a room in the building. Since a majority of the board was not willing to pay the lump sum amount of $70,000 for the space, Simpson requested that the county provide the details of what the lease options would be. 

The two options include the county’s financing of the $70,000 price of the space at an interest rate of 4.5 percent for 59 months. Monthly payments for this option would be $1,324.74. Under this option, the final cost of using the facility would be $78,159.66. The town’s other option would be to enter into a 10-year lease, with the option for automatic renewals, for $3,300 a year with an increase in payment each year based on the Southeastern Consumer Price Index. In his recommendation, Simpson said that in all probability, this would be the final opportunity for the town to procure access to the EOC.

The board will also discuss whether or not to allow scuba diving, spearfishing or snorkeling around Johnnie Mercer’s Pier. The issue of spearfishing underneath the pier was raised through a series of emails to the town from Wayne Holden, who observed surfers and spearfishermen in close proximity to the fishing lines of anglers on the pier. The town’s current ordinance prohibits surfing and recreational swimming within 100 feet of the pier, but not snorkeling, scuba diving or spearfishing. 

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