Staff photo by Cole Dittmer
North Carolina General Assembly Representative Rick Catlin, R-New Hanover, addresses the collection of elected officials from Wrightsville, Carolina and Kure beaches gathered at the beach town breakfast Friday, Jan. 17, in Kure Beach. Other state lawmakers present included Senator Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, left, and Representative Susi Hamilton, D-New Hanover and Brunswick, right.
New Hanover County beach towns will write resolutions to state lawmakers requesting more Room Occupancy Tax spending flexibility and opposing proposed homeowner insurance rate increases with plans to form a council for general advocacy against Biggert-Waters.
Wrightsville, Carolina and Kure beach town officials met with state representatives on Friday, Jan. 17, at the Kure Beach Community Center, to discuss issues facing the three municipalities.
Wrightsville Beach Alderwoman Lisa Weeks made a request for a member from each council to meet for general advocacy opposing the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. Wrightsville Beach Mayor Bill Blair will serve as the Wrightsville Beach representative.
The five agenda items touched on one another, ranging from Room Occupancy Tax flexibility to Carolina Beach Inlet dredging.
There is a push from the beach towns to have more flexibility with half of the second 3 percent of ROT funds.
Sixty percent of the first 3 percent, of 6 percent, of ROT funds collected by the beach towns goes toward beach nourishment. The Tourism Development Authority uses the remaining 40 percent.
The additional 3 percent is used half to promote travel and tourism and half toward TDA-approved tourism-related expenditures.
The idea by the beach towns is to use the money for sand, or beach nourishment.
“We would like to be able to spend the money as we want to,” said Kure Beach Mayor Dean Lambeth.
Carolina Beach Commissioner Steve Shuttleworth said the Carolina Beach budget is a little different than the Kure Beach budget, citing an emphasis on marketing and advertising.
“We’re also being burdened with our inlet,” Shuttleworth said. “… We’re having some budget pressures.”
The deadline, given by Rep. Susi Hamilton, D-New Hanover, for any resolutions, or draft bills, to be written and submitted to state lawmakers is about six weeks before the general assembly session convenes on May 14. The deadline to submit a bill is two days after the session starts, Hamilton said.
Rep. Ted Davis, R-New Hanover, said this is going to be something done statewide.
“This is going to be controversial,” Davis said.
Hamilton recommended town officials also talk with the county.
Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Tim Owens said the proposed bill to delay implementation does not protect commercial properties or second homes.
“Second homes, we’re full of second homes,” Owens said.
He said real estate would see a huge hit, putting the market in limbo in four years.
With increases ranging from $2,000 to $30,000, Owens said he is unsure how residents would be able to handle the increases.
“They can’t,” Hamilton said, adding that she would be interested in seeing North Carolina join in with other states in a lawsuit. “… It’s killing us.”
Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Massachusetts joined Mississippi in its lawsuit against increased federal flood insurance rates.
Proposed homeowner insurance rate increases
The North Carolina Rate Bureau proposed a 35 percent increase in homeowners’ insurance that would include most of New Hanover County and other Southeast N.C. counties.
Senator Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, said the state needs an insurance commissioner who lives on the coast, understands our issues and sees that it is fair.
“You realize that we get screwed,” Goolsby said. “It’s just plain and simple. There’s no way around it.”
Hamilton said she agrees with Goolsby, and the only reason Wayne Goodwin, state insurance commissioner, came out swinging against the proposed increases is because it impacts other inland counties.
Rep. Rick Catlin, R-New Hanover, said a 35 percent increase at the beach and 35 percent increase in New Hanover County are different, explaining the need to show the difference in the numbers.
“But put a face with the dollars,” Weeks said.
Davis said he could pass along a resolution and supporting documentation to other House members.
“Resolutions, to me, are a very powerful thing,” he said.
Wrightsville Beach has a resolution against homeowners’ insurance increases on its Jan. 23 meeting agenda. Owens said the public should also mail or email the Department of Insurance opposing the increases.
Beach town officials aim to hold similar meetings to the Jan. 17 meeting quarterly, with Carolina Beach offering to host the upcoming meeting.
“You’ve given me some definite marching orders,” Davis said, while commending everyone for coming together.