Town brakes on ROT flexibility resolution

by Kelly Corbett
Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Staff photo by Cole Dittmer 

Mayors Dan Wilcox of Carolina Beach, from left, Dean Lambeth of Kure Beach and Bill Blair of Wrightsville Beach listen to a presentation during the joint beach town Room Occupancy Tax distribution meeting on Thursday, Feb. 27.

Wrightsville Beach will wait on input from the Wrightsville Beach Marketing Advisory Committee before making a decision about whether to enter into a joint resolution with Kure and Carolina beaches requesting more flexibility with Room Occupancy Tax funds.

In the meantime, Kure and Carolina beaches will proceed with adopting the resolutions during March meetings.

The beach town representatives, along with representatives from New Hanover County, the City of Wilmington, marketing committees and the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority, met at Shell Island on Thursday, Feb. 27, to further discuss ROT flexibility. Kure Beach Town Council initiated the request during a Jan. 17 beach town meeting with local legislators.

On Tuesday, March 4, Wrightsville Beach Mayor Bill Blair said he is not sure which direction Wrightsville Beach wants to go in terms of how flexible, what percentage and how much detail is in the resolution, because the board members had not yet discussed all of the information presented.

“It would appear that the other beaches are a little further along in their details and discussions about what they really want than we are, because the beaches have different needs for those monies,” Blair said. “Wrightsville Beach’s needs for a flexibility issue as it relates to sand has to do with more savings for events like storm damage reduction projects that may occur with a nor’easter or a hurricane as well as beach renourishment, whereas Carolina and Kure beach have those issues plus shallow draft inlets.”

The resolution will come before the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen on Wednesday, March 19.

The resolution wording allows beach towns to use discretion with half of the second 3 percent of ROT funds. Currently, half is used to promote travel and tourism and half is used for tourism-related purposes within the 3 percent.

“This number is bigger to us than it is to any of you other guys,” said Kure Beach Commissioner David Heglar, stressing the resolution’s importance to Kure’s nourishment funding. “For us, if we don’t start pushing the train now, the train’s not going to move. … I don’t see anybody doing taxes on food or booze or anything else in our towns in the short term. … We recognized that there would be resistance. We recognize that it’s not an easy sell.”

Kim Hufham, president and CEO of Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau, showed the collection and distribution of ROT funds from beach towns and how the dollars are used for marketing.

“I get all of the sides, but I think if you seriously deplete your marketing money, maybe it wouldn’t have as great an impact as some would suggest, but I’m not 100 percent convinced in that because I’m not a marketing guy,” Blair said on March 4. “It’s best served as a group effort and discussion.”

Individual beach web and mobile sites would disappear if funding were taken from promotion funds, Hufham said.

“You would just be part of the portal of New Hanover County,” she said.

The resolution draft was also sent to the city and county for comments.

The Town of Wrightsville Beach received half of ROT collections, or about $1.03 million, in ROT distributions in 2013.

The 2014 Wrightsville Beach nourishment project totals $8.3 million compared to $12.5 million for the 2013 Carolina and Kure beach nourishment project.

In 2011, all three beach towns signed an interlocal agreement agreeing to pay 17.5 percent of nourishment projects, totaling $1.45 million for Wrightsville Beach and $2.19 million for Carolina and Kure beaches, if there is no federal or state funding. The county agreed to pay 82.5 percent without federal and state funds.

Town manager Tim Owens said March 4 there are two separate entities to Wrightsville Beach’s nourishment projects, including maintenance dredging of Masonboro Inlet as mitigation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and funding for the coastal storm damage reduction project.

“Coastal storm damage reduction funding is a fight every year,” Owens said. “…“Let’s say the federal government just chooses to do the mitigation part, well we would want to be in a position where we could leverage that and piggyback under that contract and do a beach project with or without federal and/or state help. It’s good to have that rainy day fund in the event that happens.”

Alderwoman Lisa Weeks was absent from the meeting.


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