Transportation plan accepted
The majority of the large audience at the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen meeting on Thursday, Feb. 14, was present to take part in the public hearing for the Harbor Island Parking District.
With the coming summer season and activation of paid parking meters on the beach strand on March 1, the town received several emails from residents about their concerns with the system leading up to the Valentine’s Day meeting.
The concerns ranged from residents who said they did not have a problem with parking before the district was enacted last year, to residents who felt that not all parking on Harbor Island should be treated the same.
“On Shore Drive [the parking district] was a solution in search of a problem,” said Harbor Island resident John Jones. “It is not a one-size-fits-all solution.”
Other Harbor Island residents like Michael Dorosko made suggestions to the board about improving the parking district, like instituting a Harbor Island guest parking pass program.
Still others like Skip Schlitzkus, whose Coral Drive home consistently attracted beachgoer parking during the summer prior to the district’s establishment, wanted to do away with the parking district completely.
“We are driving away people who want to come to our beach,” Schlitzkus said. “Kids don’t want to drive all the way up to the north end to park. Where is the restaurant up there? Where are the shops up there?”
Although the aldermen decided to leave the parking district unchanged for another year at its annual retreat on Feb. 2, Lanier Parking manager Bryant Sykes said he would like to see some amendment to the regulations, calling the special event parking permitting process for the district “loose and cumbersome.”
After the public hearing board members agreed something should be changed. Mayor Pro Tem Bill Sisson said he felt allowing people with hurricane re-entry decals to park on the street within the district would be a good solution, given the lack of off-street parking for many district residents.
Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti also said he was originally in favor of lessening the duration of time the parking district is enforced during the parking season. Cignotti said he did not notice much of a problem with beachgoers parking on Harbor Island in the months outside of May through August.
At the end of the discussion, both amendments were accepted and the board voted unanimously to allow anyone with a hurricane re-entry decal to park on the street in the district and to only enforce the district from May 1 to Sept. 15.
Another parking decision ended a proposal to meter 75 possible parking spaces on Pelican Drive. The board passed due to a lack of resident support for the initiative and skepticism as to how quickly the projected cost of $30,000 would be offset by parking revenues.
The board voted unanimously to accept the Wilmington Metro-politan Planning Organization-funded Wrightsville Beach Compre-hensive Transportation Plan. Presented by Jonathan Whitehurst, project manager at the planning consulting firm Kimley-Horn and Associates, the plan primarily focused on all modes of transportation at the three major intersections of Causeway Drive and Salisbury Street, Causeway Drive and Waynick Boulevard, and Salisbury Street and North Lumina Avenue. Recommendations from the plan included a roundabout at the intersection of Causeway Drive and Salisbury Street and reducing Waynick Boulevard to a two-lane road with a middle turning lane and multiuse path on the road’s west side. Other less involved improvements, like repainting crosswalks and creating a double left turn lane from Waynick Boulevard to Causeway Drive, could be completed in the nearer future, Whitehurst said.
After Whitehurst’s presentation, all board members pointed out some part of the plan they had reservations about. For Cignotti, the roundabout caused concern, and for alderwomen Susan Collins and Elizabeth King, making Waynick Boulevard a three-lane road caused the most concern.
However; Whitehurst, Sisson, town attorney John Wessel and WMPO executive director Mike Kozlosky assured the board that no part of the plan could be implemented without the board’s approval, and that it was created to be a guide for the town’s future transportation projects. Not accepting the plan would leave the town without the research involved that could be used to more easily secure funding from the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Kozlosky said.
To clarify what the board approved when accepting the plan, a caveat was added to the wording of the resolution stating that any project from the plan would have to be subject to a public hearing and board approval before implementation.
On the board’s regular agenda, the North Carolina Coastal Federation’s request for a larger lot in the town’s Historic Square for the relocation of the Palmgren-O’Quinn house was granted. The larger, 70.5-foot by 105-foot lot would allow the NCCF to add a new side porch to match the existing one. In addition, the board also approved extending the duration of the lease of the property to the NCCF to 30 years. Without that extended lease, NCCF coastal scientist and southeast region office director Tracy Skrabal said the cost of the lease would be too much for the NCCF board of directors to approve.