By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
NEW HANOVER CTY - Each year the Island Gazette publishes highlights of top stories from through out the year. 2014 was a busy year with a variety of news stories landing on the front page. The following is Part One of a two-part look back at stories in 2014:
January 29th Storm Brings Blanket Of Snow To Cape Fear Region
January 29th, snow storm at Fort Fisher. Families took advantage of the snow to break out their surf boards and ride down hills at Fort Fisher south of Kure Beach.
January 29th, 2014 - Lots of sleet and a little snow covered Pleasure Island January 29th. Roads in Carolina Beach and Kure Beach, NC were covered in a layer of ice, sleet and a little snow. Many businesses were open. Schools and government offices were closed. Traffic was sparse but driving slowly on area roads was not an issue for most people. Families were out and about having fun riding sleds, boogie boards and even one kid with a surf board sliding on the ice. People were out getting coffee at restaurants and taking in the scenery.
Second Winter Storm Of 2014 Leaves Many With Out Power
A second 2014 winter storm caused by cold Canadian air dipping far south created icy conditions in New Hanover County. The storm arrived Tuesday February 11th, and brought sleet and freezing rain covering trees and power lines with a layer of ice. Road conditions in New Hanover County were not as severe as the previous January 29th, storm, but power outages and fallen trees caused County Officials to open a shelter at Coddington Elementary School. About 50,000 (43%) were without power on February 13th. Schools and government offices were closed through Thursday due to poor weather conditions. Many businesses that still had power remained open throughout the storm. There was erosion along area beaches. The Town of Carolina Beach warned the public of high drop-offs along the beachfront from the 1200 to 1600 block of Carolina Beach Avenue North.
Councilman Says Kure Beach Business Owners Not In Favor Of Paid Parking
Kure Beach Mayor Pro Tem Craig Bloszinsky said the idea of paid parking is off the table during a January 27th, Council meeting. Currently Kure Beach is the only beach town in New Hanover County that has free public parking. Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach charge for parking in on-street spaces and lots.
Bloszinsky explained, "It was a revenue proposal to help pay for beach renourishment activities using Friendly Parking." He explained, "Friendly Parking was considered to be low cost to residents, revenue sharing with our local businesses who would in fact have to sell the day passes" and, "I met with 80% of the businesses downtown. They were not in favor of pursuing that type of activity due to the potential character changing of the Town. Due to the impact to the customers. Therefore I would say that is completed. It doesn't have the level of support to go forward so Friendly Parking is off the table."
Mayor Dean Lambeth said earlier that month that paid parking would be a topic of discussion because the Town has to locate other sources of revenue to help fund future beach nourishment projects.
The Council considered the issue in 2012 and in 2011. In 2012 the Council decided not to continue exploring a proposal for a paid parking program at their April 17, 2012 meeting.
At that time Lanier Parking Solutions quoted the Town revenues of $245,320.00 with expenses of $124,000.00 leaving a net income of $121,320.00 while Councilman David Heglar said he believed the actual range would have been between $30,000 to $60,000 for the Town.
Carolina Beach Approves Changes For Hampton Inn Project Permit
In January the Carolina Beach Town Council approved changes to a permit approved in 2013 for a new oceanfront Hampton Inn and Suites to be built at 1 Harper Avenue at the downtown Boardwalk.
Crews began work at the site of the Hampton Inn and Suites Hotel project at 1 Harper Avenue on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk in May. The project is still moving forward and is currently working on utilities and permitting.
The Carolina Beach Town Council unanimously approved changes to a conditional use permit for a new oceanfront Hampton Inn and Suites at their January 14th, meeting after lengthy discussion. The Council agreed to waive parking requirements and require the developer to grade a Town-owned gravel parking lot on Canal Drive across from the Town's marina.
The Council previously approved a permit to construct the eight story, 100-room hotel at 1 Harper Avenue on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk during their November 12th, 2013 meeting.
Blanchard & Calhoun Commercial, a real estate development and commercial brokerage firm in Augusta, Georgia, purchased the property from a previous owner who had planned to construct a Hilton Garden Inn at the same location. The site was previously approved for a 191-room 125-foot tall hotel in 2007.
The site has since been sold and is a completely different project. Currently on the site is 170’ of right of way for Carolina Beach Avenue N. and 41,930 sq. ft. of vacant land. The building site property is .96 acres located in the CBD. The proposed structure is 87.5’ feet in height. The footprint of the structure is 22,626 square feet.
A pool will be located on the second floor, along with a breakfast café, outside bar area and an outside seating area. The hotel will have direct access to the boardwalk.
The project requires 100 parking spaces. Previously 73 of those spaces were provided on the hotel property. The developer was asking for a waiver for 9 spaces lowering the requirement to 91 spaces overall. The three public parking lots between Harper Avenue and Carl Winner Street were to be redesigned to act as one large parking lot by the developer to increase available parking. 18 spaces in the parking lot closest to the Boardwalk area near the corner of Harper Avenue and Canal Drive would have been designated only for hotel use. The developer said those spaces would typically only be needed during the busy peak times of the summer tourist season. The spaces would be labeled as hotel parking spaces.
Following approval of the conditional use permit for the hotel project, the Council approved closing a 170' portion of Carolina Beach Avenue North to facilitate the hotel project. Now closed, the road will become part of the hotel property.
Town Manager Michael Cramer previously sent an update to Council on December 6th, 2013 explaining, "At the November 12, 2013 Town Council Meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Shuttleworth made a motion to approve the Hampton Inn Hotel Project with the fact that it met all seven required findings, general conditions 1-4, and is conditioned upon the recommendations of the draft grant order that was listed in staff. Also direct staff to negotiate a lease after 20 years for the 18 [parking] spaces and report back to council what that lease is, preferably close to some kind of market rate and also to memorialize the landscape changes, specifically the connectivity to the boardwalk, the sidewalk expansion from Carl Winner to Harper and the grading of the Harbor Master lots. The motion was carried unanimously."
Cramer explained that following the November 2013 approval it was discovered that a portion of the permit may not have been in compliance with state law governing how long a Town can lease public land to a private company. Basically, state law limits lease terms to 10 years. For terms longer than that, a process requiring the Town to advertise for upset bids must be followed. State law § 160A-272. Lease or rental of property, states, " Leases for terms of more than 10 years shall be treated as a sale of property and may be executed by following any of the procedures authorized for sale of real property."
Cramer explained, "Due to these additional steps, the possibility of upset bid and the time frame for completion of the additional steps, the Developer is considering applying for a modification of the CUP site plan."
The new plan is to utilize recently acquired property and on-site plan modifications to allow the Developer to establish an additional 6 parking spaces on their own property. These changes will allow the Developer to provide 79 parking spaces on their property and they requested the town waive a total of 21 parking spaces. Through the November 12, 2013 grant order, town council has already waived 9 parking spaces, so the Developer is asking for an additional 12 spaces to be waived.
He explained, "In addition to the waving of the parking spaces the existing CUP requires “the sidewalk expansion from Carl Winner to Harper and the grading of the Harbor Master lots.” These improvements will add an estimated 44 public parking spaces to the existing 14 public spaces for a total of 58 spaces in the Harbor Master Lot. Using the existing Harbor Master Lot revenue as a benchmark we anticipate an increase in revenue estimated at approximately $8,018.00 per year for the new parking spaces."
Cramer explained, "With the proposed CUP modification the Developer will meet the parking requirements and will not require the use or modification of the town’s “Palms” parking lots. If for some reason the Developers business model is not correct and additional parking is required then either the hotel or the hotel clients will pay for parking in the town parking lots in a “first come first serve” manner."
After lengthy discussion about the project and previous conditions for approval, the Council voted unanimously to approve of the requested changes. The developer said due to purchasing land in the interim to facilitate more parking on their property they would not make improvements to the Town's sidewalk or parking lots. The Council added a condition of approval requiring the developer to improve the gravel lot known as the "Harbor Masters Lot" on Canal Drive across from the Municipal Marina and Gibby's Restaurant.
Early Morning Fire Destroys River Road Home; No One Injured
Fire destroyed a River Road home early Tuesday morning February 25th. The homeowners escaped through a window. The home, vehicles and an RV camper were destroyed. A neighboring home also experienced exterior damage.
Fire destroyed a home at 8453 River Road early Tuesday morning February 25th. The homeowners escaped through a window climbing down a rope ladder to a deck and then down a ladder put up by a neighbor coming to their aid. The fire totally destroyed the house, vehicles and an RV camper.
Firefighters with the New Hanover County Fire Department, Wilmington Fire Department and Carolina Beach Fire Department responded to the scene just before 2AM Tuesday morning. The home is owned by Carolina Beach Fire Department Deputy Chief Granger Soward. He and his wife Diane were at home when the fire broke out and were able to make their way to safety. Tuesday afternoon fire crews and investigators were on scene to investigate possible causes of the blaze.
The fire caused exterior damage to a neighboring structure and a boat.
Steve Haydu St. Patrick’s Lo Tide Run Shatters Records with Over 2,200 Participants
March 15th, over 2,200 runners and walkers kicked pavement for the 10th Annual Steve Haydu St. Patrick’s Lo Tide Run 5k/10k.
On Saturday March 15th, the streets were covered in green as over 2,200 runners and walkers kicked pavement for the 10th Annual Steve Haydu St. Patrick’s Lo Tide Run 5k/10k. Participants of all ages and skill levels came to support one cause, and that was to ease financial burdens to locals fighting cancer. This year’s event broke records in both individual and team participation! Team Emily’s Lucky Charms took the win for largest team with 98 registrants; this year’s Team Spirit Award went to Bev’s 5k 50th Bash and the Fastest Team Award went to the Island Gazette.
This year’s 5k overall winners are as follows: for the males Joe Harty took 1st place with a time of 17:53, Will Mayo took 2nd place by the tip of his nose edging out 3rd place male, Vaughn Rizzo both with a chip time of 18:46 all 3 are Ashley High School students. First place female was Carolina Beach’s Christina Dees with a time of 21:00, Valerie Stinson took 2nd place with a time of 22:41 and 3rd place went to Biron Bradford with a time of 22:43. 10k overall winners are as follows: 1st place went to Fort Bragg’s Cameron Holman with a time of 37:11, 2nd place all the way from Annapolis was Jeremy Beall, Jeremy’s Mom Linda Beall is retiring from the board this year and she will be deeply missed! 3rd place was awarded to Carolina Beach’s Wes Brown with a time of 40:21. For a complete list of results, including age group awards visit http://its-go-time.com/. New to this year’s event, organizers created a water stop contest encouraging sponsors to bring all of their St. Patrick’s Day Spirit. While everyone did a great job, there could be only be one winner and that was Bozart Family Practice! The fun didn’t stop at the race, as everyone was encouraged to continue the fun at the Lazy Pirate’s Official Lo Tide Run After Party.
For more information on the Steve Haydu St. Patrick’s Lo Tide Run or to donate visit them online at www.lotiderun.org and on Facebook. This year’s event would not have been possible without the Lo Tide Run Board, Volunteers, Sponsors, the Town of Carolina Beach, the Carolina Beach Police Department and everyone else who helped set a record breaking year!
Council Settles Lawsuit With Former Oceanfront Park Contractor
The Kure Beach Town Council voted to settle an ongoing lawsuit with Integrity Builders LLC concerning construction of an ocean front park. The Council paid $160,000 to settle the case. The Town previously terminated their contract with the company in 2011 due to issues with construction.
The Kure Beach Town Council emerged from closed session at their April 15th, meeting and announced a decision to settle an ongoing lawsuit with Integrity Builders LLC concerning construction of an ocean front park.
According to a release issued by the Town at the meeting, "The Kure Beach Town Council, after much thought and consideration, has decided to settle the lawsuit filed against the Town by the former Ocean Front Park project contractor, Integrity Builders, LLC."
According to the Town, during construction of the park certain claims and disputes arose between the Town and the contractor over the quality of the work being performed. On December 30, 2011, the Town Council terminated the contract with Integrity Builders. The surety bonding company that provided a performance bond for Integrity Builders agreed to take over and complete the project.
According to the release, "In March of 2012, Integrity Builders filed a suit against the Town alleging various breaches of contract and warranties by the Town that resulted in the contractor being wrongfully terminated. To defend itself, the Town Council authorized counterclaims to be filed against Integrity Builders. The parties engaged in extensive and expensive discovery before agreeing to participate in a mediated settlement conference. Before this mediation, Integrity Builders made it clear that if a settlement was not reached, it intended to add Engineering Services, Lisle
Architecture & Design, and David Lisle, individually,
as parties to the lawsuit. These are firms the Town also had contracts with regarding construction of the park. These firms also participated in the mediation and in the resulting settlement."
According to the Town, the mediated settlement conference and subsequent negotiations resulted in a settlement
of all disputed issues and claims without an admission of wrongdoing or liability by any party. As part of this settlement, the Town Council agreed to remit payment of $160,000."
In a release issued at the meeting it stated, "The Town Council regrets that the citizens and the good name of the Town have been involved in this lawsuit. The Council's goal throughout this project was to obtain a well built, quality product that everyone would be proud of. The Town
Council is very proud of the Ocean Front Park as it stands today and believes it to be a true asset and gathering place for the community. Thousands have enjoyed the park since it opened in April 2013 and future generations will continue to enjoy this wonderful public space on the ocean front."
In December 2011, Council terminated the contract with the original contractor and negotiated with the insurance bonding company to select a new contractor to resume work.
In a press release issued Tuesday April 3, 2012 it stated, "The Kure Beach Town Council voted in a special meeting on Thursday, March 29, 2012 to accept a takeover agreement with The Gray Casualty and Surety
Company of Metairie, Louisiana (bonding company) to complete construction of the Ocean Front Park project and is waiting final signature from the bonding company.”
As part of the takeover agreement, the bonding company hired Landmark Corporation of Johnston City, Tennessee as the completion contractor. Landmark Corporation is licensed in 48 states and was experienced in finishing projects where there has been a change of contractor.
Existing unacceptable work on the site was removed and rebuilt.
The project consisted of an open-air pavilion for concerts and other events, a public restroom, small playground for tots, walking path, swings and benches. The park site is located at 105 Atlantic Ave in the heart of the Town and across the street from the ocean. Also as part of the project, the boardwalk from K to L Avenue was replaced and four wooden platforms extend from the boardwalk towards the dunes. The platforms have swings for viewing the ocean. A fifth platform is for an ADA conforming viewing area.
The original contractor, Wayne Laws - Integrity Builders LLC - explained in 2011 there were issues with the project and he modified the plans. Because he didn't request change orders from the Town, he would be responsible for the cost of repairs.
He said of the concrete finisher, "It's not the best finish job I've ever seen. He is willing to do whatever he needs to do to take care of it. Ponding is also his fault." He said other modifications such as the height of concrete at restroom entrances had to be changed. The Council discussed alternative solutions but after multiple meetings, no resolution was reached.
In addition to other issues, the Town claimed the concrete poured for the pavilion was uneven and would cause ponding of rainwater. They took issue with the quality of workmanship on the wooden boardwalk and crossovers.
Later on Integrity Builders filed a lawsuit. They alleged breach of contract, breach of expressed and implied warranties, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and seeking in excess of $10,000 for each claim, interest and cost of the action and attorney's fees.
At a meeting in 2011, Wayne Laws said, "I need better communication. I don't feel I'm getting the feedback I need to help me build this building. There are a lot of things that aren't working. I put myself at risk - obviously I'm going to take care of this problem - but I put myself at risk by not following the plans to make sure this works. I'm not going to do that from now on. You need to communicate because I'm not going to deviate from the plans at all." Laws said he chose to alter the plans to address certain issues and said the plans were not entirely up to code.
The Town pointed out in previous meetings that a clause in the contract with Laws said deviation from the plans would be his responsibility if the Town did not approve permission before making changes.
The project was completed and a grand opening was held Friday, April 26, 2013.
Carolina Beach Council Votes Down Community Pool Proposal
The Carolina Beach Town Council voted three to two not to move forward with a plan to construct $1.4 million dollar 8-lane 25-yard pool at their April 8th meeting.
The Carolina Beach Town Council voted three to two at their Tuesday April 8th, meeting not to move forward with a proposed $1.4 million dollar 8-lane 25-yard pool and aquatics center adjacent to the Town's recreation center behind Town Hall on North Lake Park Blvd.
The Council voted three to two with Mayor Dan Wilcox and Council members Leann Pierce and Gary Doetsch voting against the proposal. Council members Steve Shuttleworth and Sarah Friede voted in favor of the plan. In November 2013, the Carolina Beach Town Council approved additional funding for the design of a proposed community pool during their November 12, 2013 meeting.
In April of last year the Carolina Beach Community Pool Steering Committee gave a presentation to the Town Council on a proposal to build the pool The Council approved the next step in the process at the April 2013 meeting to complete the final construction drawings and obtain all final bids and structure a loan and terms with the Local Government Commission.
Highlights included a 204,000 gallon, 25 yard, 8-lane, NCAA compliant swimming pool complemented by a zero entry shallow end, ADA accessible ramp, and 9’ diving well. The facility would be open in the Summer and covered by a “bubble” enclosure in the winter for year-round use. Access to the facility would be through the existing rec center entryway and a covered walkway that leads to the pool. Leveraging the existing check-in desk would reduce the annual admin cost of running the facility. It would also include locker rooms, storage building with an open design, separate admin counter that can be utilized for concessions, and a family changing room.
The facility would be funded by user fees and fees for programs such as water aerobic classes and competitive swimming events including area high schools.
The committee sent out surveys in utility bills and held community meetings including one at the Katie B. Hines Senior Center.
There were two options to pay a fee to use the pool. The base membership at $40 per individual, $60 for a family and then higher non-resident rates. If you were not a frequent user you could just buy punch passes. Punch pass visits would cost about $4 to $5. Another option was to buy a full membership.
The proposed annual membership fees for Carolina Beach residents are $400 for a family, $340 for a senior family, $240 for an individual and $204 for a senior individual. For non-residents, the annual fee would be $520 for a family, $442 for a senior family, $330 for an individual and $281 for a senior individual.
Bids received from contractors range from $1,197,225.00 to $1,645,319.00.
As of November 2013 the following had been spent:
• $ 3,500.00 Schematic Design Documents- Lisle Architecture
• $ 15,875 Engineering services
• $ 28,448.26 Design Development Documents- Lisle Architecture
• $ 348.94 Additional Printing Fees- Lisle Architecture
• $ 2,000.00 Council Presentation Pool Video- Seven Season Films
• $ 50,172.20 Total spent on pool project
In November the Council approved spending an additional $12,429.76 in order to complete the project design for bid documents, value engineering design and civil changes, bid preparation and negotiation.
After a lengthy discussion and public comments supporting and opposing the pool, Councilman Gary Doetsch thanked the committee for their work and said, "However, I'm one of those people that think it's going to have to take a back seat for now. At this time I would like to make a motion that we shelve this item until we have a street-paving plan in our capital improvement plan. We certainly have funds for beach renourishment that are guaranteed. Just too many issues right now that I think are going to cost the Town of Carolina Beach to move ahead with this project."
Doetsch said he was talking about a plan to pave streets in the future as needed. Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said, "It's probably no surprise Gary, I won't support your motion. I think it is time. I think some of our speakers spoke eloquently. When is the right time? As we all know you've lived here your entire life. Leann you've been here 20 years. Dan's been here 12, 15, 20 years... 25. There hadn't been a plan. To dredge the lake hasn't happened. All the water lines being replaced hasn't happened. All the sewer lines hasn't happened. But we did build a rec center. We are spending energy and time on the boardwalk and right now we have grant dollars but the likelihood is we are going to end up with public money in there somewhere."
Shuttleworth said, "We do have a plan for capital improvements. I think it's time this Council steps up and makes an investment to the community. To the kids, to the quality of life, to the seniors."
Council member Leann Pierce said, "I love the idea of a pool. I would like to see it. There are two things that are first and foremost on my mind, well three. One is, a couple of people said maybe we could use a less expensive pool. Those are all things we can look at. I think the numbers are pretty good. But my biggest concern is two things, last Council meeting we had a very emotional plea from residents about the waste transfer station being in their backyards. I have a problem with that. My next question is, where are we going to park the 30 vehicles in the parking lots if we build a pool. We don't have an operations yard. We are paying $3,500 a month to rent at the Food Lion shopping center which could go away at any time. We have to, I think, secure an operations yard."
Council member Sarah Friede said she has confidence in Town staff to solve those issues. She said, "Even though we are being asked to approve more than a million dollars for this, the money will come back to the Town. These other issues, paving the streets, the water and sewer, the waste transfer station. We have funds in the utility fund to pave the streets. We've got the money and we know that the income will continue to come in for water and sewer."
She said, "At some point I think there is more to living in a Town than just covering the problems" and, "That's one of the functions of government but I also think there is delivering more to the citizens."
Mayor Dan Wilcox said, "My position hasn't changed since I ran for office. I felt this was a good project. It would be a good project two years from now. I didn't think this was the time for it."
Wilcox said, "I think one measure for me... if its a money making project you're going to see the private sector doing it. I'm not seeing the private sector out there building pools."
He said, "There are a lot of unknowns" regarding the revenues paying for the project.
Bunny Saved From Carolina Beach House Fire Monday Afternoon June 2nd
Firefighter John Batson hands a rescued rabbit named Bun-Bun's over to it's owner Lori following a house fire June 2nd in Carolina Beach.
The Carolina Beach Fire Department responded to a house fire Monday afternoon June, 2nd shortly before 6PM at 212 Hamlet Avenue.
Firefighters quickly brought the fire under control with resulting damage largely confined to the upstairs apartment.
While clearing the house of smoke firefighters found a white pet bunny rabbit. Fireman John Batson brought a pet carrier and the rabbit down the staircase and into the arms of the pet's owner Lori.
Lori said Bun-Buns became a member of the family five or six years ago while living in Minnesota. Bun-Buns was scared but appeared to be physically fine with only a light covering of soot on his white coat.
With Bun-Buns back in the familiar loving arms of his owner Lori, firefighters used an oxygen mask to give Bun-Buns some much needed fresh air, as crowds watched eagerly to make sure he would survive.
Pretty soon Bun-Buns was resting comfortably in a pet carrier with a bottle of fresh cold water. One fireman said the apartment was filled with smoke and while he was spraying blindly to find hot spots he may have gotten Bun-Bun's wet. He jokingly said, "If he's a little wet it's probably my fault."
No one was inured in the fire. Lori said everyone was home at the time and was able to get out safely. She gave Fireman John Batson a big hug for saving Bun-Buns and thanked the department for getting the fire out quickly.
One fire official said it appeared the fire started in the kitchen and began to spread through the apartment. The downstairs unit only experienced water draining through the ceiling. The estimated damage to the structure was around $10,000 and $50,000 for contents.
Kure Beach Council Votes Not To Oppose Seismic Air Gun Testing
Around 300 people gathered at Kure Beach Town Hall on January 27th, to voice their opposition to Mayor Dean Lambeth signing a letter supporting seismic airgun testing for off shore oil exploration in December 2013. Crowds were angry they had no chance to voice concerns on the issue prior to the Mayor signing the letter.
The Kure Beach Town Council once again took up the issue of seismic air-gun testing in the Atlantic Ocean for off-shore oil and natural gas exploration at their April 15th, meeting.
Council previously voted 3 to 2 giving Mayor Dean Lambeth permission to send a letter to Washington supporting seismic testing for off-shore oil and natural gas drilling. That resulted in unprecedented levels of public outcry opposing that position.
A crowd of approximately 300 people rallied at Kure Beach Town Hall on January 27th, to voice their opposition to Mayor Dean Lambeth signing a letter in December 2013 supporting seismic airgun testing for off shore oil and natural gas exploration.
The Mayor signed a letter written by America's Energy Forum - a group sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute - that describes its mission as, "a non-partisan community of concerned citizens committed to two goals – achieving energy security for our country, and holding our elected officials more accountable in shaping energy policies."
The letter sent in December was addressed to Tommy Beaudreau of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in Washington D.C. The letter stated, "The downturn in the economy negatively impacted the economic situation in our region, and we are still in recovery. As coastal elected officials we are also addressing other serious issues such as flood insurance, beach re-nourishment and diversifying our economies so we can grow vibrant, economically healthy communities. One potential opportunity to create jobs and revenue for our communities is offshore oil and natural gas exploration."
The letter stated, "Studies show that development of offshore resources could create a significant number of well paying jobs for our communities as well as generate revenue for critical infrastructure projects. However, the seismic data, which could determine the offshore potential, is more than 30 years old and needs to be updated so that everyone involved can make sound business and policy decisions. Therefore, we are writing to urge you to move the process forward to approve permits for seismic studies so that we can begin the long overdue process of improving our energy and economic security."
The letter stated, "Furthermore, we understand that companies are prohibited from conducting any exploration and production activities in the Atlantic because the Atlantic Offshore Continental Shelf is not in the government's current "Five-Year Program for 2012 to 2017." Its exclusion further stymies jobs and revenue growth opportunities for our communities. Thus, we are also asking you to allow Atlantic OCS leasing before 2017. We are all strong and vocal supporters of protecting our environment and will work with all parties involved to ensure that both our shoreline and marine life are protected during the seismic testing process."
The letter explained, "However, many experts and studies have shown that this testing can be conducted in an environmentally safe manner. Seismic analyses are highly regulated and carefully managed by the operator to avoid impacting marine mammals, with on-board personnel who specialize in wildlife protection. Furthermore, allowing the long-awaited testing to go forward, coupled with an inclusion of the Atlantic in the next five-year program, will provide us with the needed information to better assess the potential revenue and jobs impact that offshore exploration will bring to our respective states and communities."
The letter stated, "We appreciate your consideration and once again ask BOEM to expeditiously approve seismic studies and allow leasing in the Atlantic OCS before 2017. We must begin generating jobs and revenue opportunities to rejuvenate the economies under our jurisdictions."
The letter was signed by Lambeth as Mayor of Kure Beach with the additional line, "I am pleased to add my name to the above letter."
According to Oceana.org, "Seismic airguns are used to find oil and gas deep underneath the ocean floor. Airguns are so loud that they disturb, injure or kill marine life, harm commercial fisheries, and disrupt coastal economies. These dynamite-like blasts—which are repeated every ten seconds, 24 hours a day, for days and weeks at a time—are 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine. Seismic airgun testing currently being proposed in the Atlantic will injure 138,500 whales and dolphins and disturb millions more, according to government estimates."
The sound waves that return to the vessel towing monitoring equipment are used to determine if oil or natural gas are located beneath the ocean floor.
On Monday January 6th, Lambeth explained, "If we don't get money in here to help fund beach nourishment it will have to come from increased property taxes for citizens and then everyone will be screaming."
He said North Carolina needs to support energy exploration and, "If North Carolina doesn't, then Virginia will do it and drill sideways for it."
Lambeth said, "It will bring monies into the coastal economies and the hope would be that some of those revenues would generate taxes to help fund beach nourishment projects." He said the last nourishment project totaled around $4 million dollars and funding was an obstacle. He said, "We will need a million dollars in the bank the next time to cover our local share of the project."
Following the April 15th, meeting Randy Sturgill, Campaign Organizer at Oceana, explained, "Today, the Kure Beach Town Council failed to adopt a resolution opposing the use of controversial seismic airguns, which are currently being considered to look for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida."
"We are very disappointed that the Kure Beach town council failed to adopt this important resolution," said Sturgill. "It is clear that Mayor Lambeth and some of his council members are putting Big Oil ahead of their constituents. Councilmember Swearingen has the support of her community, and we applaud her for her leadership—it is clear that Kure Beach residents do not want to turn their coastline into a blast zone."
Council member Swearingen had the resolution opposing seismic testing placed on the agenda for the April 15th, meeting.
Sturgill explained, "According to the Department of the Interior (DOI), these dynamite-like blasts are expected to injure and possibly kill 138,500 marine mammals like dolphins and whales along the East Coast and disturb the necessary activities of millions more. One species of particular concern is the North Atlantic right whale, the rarest large whale species, of which there are only approximately 500 left worldwide."
He explained, "Seismic airgun blasting would threaten the health of ocean ecosystems and the resources they provide to coastal communities like Kure Beach,” Sturgill continued. “In North Carolina alone, the GDP from ocean-based tourism and recreation is approximately $983 million. Between tourism, recreation, and commercial and recreational fishing, the ocean supports over 56,000 jobs for hard-working North Carolinians. The Kure Beach town council missed a major opportunity to protect the health of its community and economy today."
Sturgill said following the release of the federal government’s final proposal in late February, six coastal towns have passed local resolutions opposing their use (Cocoa Beach, FL, Carolina Beach, NC, Caswell Beach, NC, Nags Head, NC, Bradley Beach, NJ and Red Bank, NJ.) 110 local elected officials and 155 conservation and animal welfare organizations have joined the mounting opposition against seismic airgun use along the East Coast, with more expected to join the effort in the coming weeks.
Earlier this year more than 100 scientists called on President Obama and his administration to wait on new acoustic guidelines for marine mammals, which are currently in development by the National Marine Fisheries Service. These guidelines are 15 years in the making and aim to provide a better understanding of how marine mammals are impacted by varying levels of manmade sound as well as demonstrate the measures that are needed to protect them. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and eight additional U.S. Senators also sent a letter to DOI Secretary Sally Jewell urging her to hold off on issuing this administrative decision until all of the best available science, including these new acoustic guidelines, can be incorporated.
The Carolina Beach Town Council recently adopted a resolution opposing seismic airgun testing at their February 11th meeting. The entire Council attended to the January Kure Beach Council meeting and witnessed the public outcry opposing Mayor Lambeth's letter.
At the April 15th meeting, Mayor Dean Lambeth and Council members Craig Bloszinsky and Steve Pagley voted against a motion by Swearingen to adopt a resolution opposing seismic testing. Swearingen and Councilman David Heglar voted in favor of the resolution.
Commissioner Heglar said he is against seismic testing and voted for the resolution but, "Last month I said we shouldn't be voting on this. I still think we shouldn't be voting on this but since we have now we are going to be in the paper again for yet another stupid thing. I'll tell all of you, I tried to get this off of the agenda because I knew... this is exactly how it was going to go."
One resident said the Council isn't listening to their citizens who they should represent.
Heglar said he had one person call him on the issue.
Beach Music Festival 2014
The 29th annual Beach Music Festival was held June 7th in Carolina Beach. It's the longest running festival that actually takes place on the beach. This year the crowd was estimated at 4,000 watching the Band of Oz, The Embers featuring Craig Woolard and Jim Quick and Coastline.
Cape Fear Blvd Infrastructure Project
Crews working on replacing old water, sewer and stormwater lines under Lake Park Blvd at the intersection with Cape Fear Blvd earlier this year. The project is expected to be completed by the Spring of 2015 along Cape Fear Blvd.
The Kure Beach Pier during a winter storm in February that brought erosion to area beaches and left many without power. It was the second icy storm of the year.
Strong winds and heavy rain blew across Pleasure Island March 6th and 7th causing beach erosion, falling tree limbs and minor damage. (Left) A lifeguard tower washed under the Kure Beach Pier Friday morning March 7th. (Right) The sign at Jack Mackerel's Restaurant in Kure Beach was blown over in the parking lot. In the background, a man welds a sign at the Kwik Mart on Fort Fisher Blvd. Beach erosion was visible with drop offs or ledges in some areas.
Snow's Cut Bridge
A $4.6 million dollar project to rehabilitate Snow's Cut Bridge leading on to Pleasure Island was completed in 2014. The project began in 2012 and should extend the life of the bridge for another 50 years.