2020 YEAR IN REVIEW: PART ONE

Hurricane Isaias brought strong winds and storm surge to the Cape Fear region late August 3rd, and made landfall in the early morning hours of August 4th at Ocean Isle Beach with sustained winds reported  at 76mph with gusts over 85mph. One report indicated a wind speed of 99 mph at the south end of Pleasure Island. Hurricane Isaias brought strong winds and storm surge to the Cape Fear region late August 3rd, and made landfall in the early morning hours of August 4th at Ocean Isle Beach with sustained winds reported at 76mph with gusts over 85mph. One report indicated a wind speed of 99 mph at the south end of Pleasure Island.

2020 YEAR IN REVIEW: PART ONE Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 30 December 2020 04:50

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

NEW HANOVER CTY - Each  year  the  Island  Gazette publishes highlights of top stories  from  throughout  the  year.  2020  was  a  unlike  any year since the Gazette began publication in 1978. The COVID-19 pandemic dominated 2020 impacting all of our lives in ways we never thought imaginable.
The  following  is  Part  One  of  a  two-part  look  at  stories  in  2020. There a lot of good times to balance out the less than good times during 2020. We'll try to balance those headlines during this review.

Hurricane Isaias Impacts The Cape Fear Region

NEW HANOVER CTY -  Hurricane Isaias brought strong winds and storm surge to the Cape Fear region late Monday night August 3rd, and made landfall in the early morning hours of August 4th at Ocean Isle Beach with sustained winds reported by the National Hurricane Center at 76mph with gusts to over 85mph. One report indicated a wind speed of 99 mph at the south end of Pleasure Island.
Ocean Isle Beach, Oak Island and Southport in Brunswick County suffered the most intense damage due to Isaias with multiple house fires, boats piled up at a Southport marina and other severe damage.
In Carolina Beach and Kure Beach the damage was mostly downed trees and storm surge yet the areas around the Carolina Beach Lake did not flood as was the case during previous storms such as Hurricane Florence in 2018 when flood waters spanned many blocks around the lake.
Both the Kure Beach Fishing Pier and Carolina Beach Fishing Pier lost some of their railing, but otherwise were not damaged.
Some homes, businesses and vehicles were impacted. Part of the roof of the Sand Dunes Motel in Kure Beach ended up on top of a car. A&G BBQ Restaurant experienced some roof damage.
A number of trees fell on  homes and vehicles across Pleasure Island.
While Isaias was more powerful than most people originally anticipated, New Hanover County communities largely bounced back quickly the following morning with businesses openinging up, people heading out to the beach, swimming, shopping, etc. Many homeowners spent the day on Tuesday clearing storm debris from their properties.

Carolina Beach Welcomes New Town Manager

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council met in closed session on Tuesday January 14th at 5:30pm and emerged to announce they have selected a new Town Manager.
Council selected Bruce Oakley, currently serving as Manager of Southport, NC. Oakley's first day on the job in Carolina Beach will be February 18th with a starting salary of $120,000 per year plus benefits.
The Council voted unanimously to hire Oakley.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said, "Bruce has experience as a manager in coastal North Carolina and will be a good fit for Carolina Beach."
On January 22nd, the Town of Carolina Beach issued an official announcement in a media release.
The release stated, "Bruce Oakley, the current City Manager of Southport, NC, has been hired as the new Town Manager in Carolina Beach, and begins his new position on February 18, 2020.  As the top administrator, Bruce will assume responsibility for the daily operations of the town, including approximately 117 employees and a $25 million-dollar budget."
In the release, it stated, "In addition to his experience in Southport , Bruce  has 13 years of practice administering municipal budgets as Town Manager of Oak Ridge, NC.  His skills and past employment also include working in planning and development in Rockingham and Guilford counties.  Bruce has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a master’s degree in Public Affairs, both from UNC Greensboro."
According to the Town, Bruce is a native of Greensboro, NC, is married, has one grown daughter, and a rescued Jack Russel Terrier.  In his free time, he enjoys running, exercising, and reading.
Bruce stated "I am honored to be chosen as the new Town Manager and I am excited to get started. Carolina Beach is a great place with an even better future. The Town has a Mayor and Town Council that are committed to excellence, and a talented professional staff that are dedicated to serving the community. It will be a pleasure working with them all. It will also be a pleasure to work closely with all the volunteers in town and getting to know the local citizens and business owners."

Demolition Of Ocean Beach Wear To Make Way For New Development


The old Ocean Beachwear building at the corner of Lake Park Blvd. and Cape Fear Blvd. was demolished last week to make way for a new mixed-use commercial and residential development. (Photo: Jasmine Mckee)

CAROLINA BEACH -   A long-time historic buiding in the heart of Carolina Beach is now a pile of rubble. All in an effort to make way for a future mixed-use commercial and residential development at 109 Cape Fear Blvd and adjacent propeties between Caoe Fear Blvd. and Charlotte Ave.
The property most recently was home to Ocean Beachwear, a shop that sold swimwear, t-shirts, and other tourist targeted merchandise.
According to the Federal Point Historic Society, "Many old timers will remember Mrs. High’s Dining Room on Cape Fear Boulevard. It featured home cooking, great seafood of all kinds, steaks, chops, lots of fresh vegetables, and homemade pies.  It was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Mrs. Adrienne Cole, who taught at Carolina Beach School, would often play the piano during meals."
According to the Historic Society, "The dining room was owned by Mrs. Lillie Mae High and her partner, Jesse Croom and his wife, Rose Croom.  Judy Cumber Moore worked the summers of 1957 and 1958 at Mrs. High’s.  She remembers the kitchen help shelling peas and butterbeans also cutting corn off the cob for creamed corn. There was no air conditioning back then, just very large fans on stands placed all around the pine paneled dining room.  She also recalls that Mrs. Croom, who was in a wheelchair, sat at a table up front with Mrs. High or Mr. Croom at the cash register."
According to the Historic Society, "Ann and Tommy Greene remember that the Crooms and Mrs. High shared a house next door to his parents on Myrtle Avenue, two blocks from the dining room.  Ann Greene also worked there one summer. After Mrs. Croom’s death in 1965, Mr. Croom and Mrs. High married and lived on the beach until his death in 1978 and hers in 1983.  Mr. Croom and both Mrs. Crooms are buried in the same plot in Oakdale Cemetery. I also worked at High’s during the summer of 1966 while in college.  By then, Mrs. High and the Crooms had retired and the restaurant was owned by Charles and Martha Haas and renamed High’s Dining Room.  The kitchen was very small and bustling with activity with fans blowing there and in the dining room.  On the way to work, I remember riding over the new high-rise Snow’s Cut bridge that had opened in August of 1962.  It seemed so big and modern compared to the old swing bridge."
According to the Historic Society, "Mrs. High’s had started out as a diner next to the Greystone Hotel.  Mr. A. W. Pate built the Greystone Hotel in 1916, on Cape Fear Boulevard. In the linen, hand colored post card, you can see the Greystone with its roof top dancing porch, just down from the Bame Gas Station and Grocery and Hotel Bame. In 1939, the Tidewater Power Company was discontinuing the trolley line to Wrightsville Beach and put some of the beach cars up for sale.  Mr. Pate bought one and put it next to the Greystone as a hot dog stand. You can see the white roof of the beach car diner; it is on the far-right edge of the card just above the half blue car.We don’t know how long the hot dog stand lasted, but we do know that sometime in the 1940s it became Mrs. High’s Diner. Punky Kure recalls eating at the diner next to the Greystone.  Mrs. High and Jesse Croom were partners early on as you can see in the restaurants list from a Sunny Carolina Beach brochure distributed in 1945 to 1949.  It was put out by the Chamber of Commerce."
The current project will encompass more than the land the building currently occupies by incorporating two larger lots to the south that have served as unpaved paid public parking lots leased by the Town of Carolina Beach for many years.
Development of those lots will result in a decrease in the number of paid parking spots available to people visiting the downtown Boardwalk.

Carolina Beach And Kure Beach Lower Their ISO Fire Ratings


The Carolina Beach Fire Department joined with numerous other departments from North and South Carolina to conduct a live burn of a large house on Cape Fear Blvd on December 7th. In 2020 the Town's ISO rating was lowered from a 3 to 2 rating. 

PLEASURE ISLAND - Carolina Beach Fire Chief Alan Griffin informed the Town Council Tuesday May 26th, the department was recently inspected by the North Carolina Department of Insurance for their ISO insurance rating. Upon a successful inspection, the rate decreased from 3 to 2 which is an improvement and can help save some property owners money on their policies.
Griffin explained, "We had our ISO inspection in February. Typically takes several months to get the score back. The North Carolina Rating System does the inspection and then they push it up the pipe to the federal level where they review everything and give approval."
He explained ISO stands for Insurance Service Organization and, "It's basically a rating that sets your fire rating scores and fire premium scores that you pay in your insurance. For a homeowner or commercial business, that score dictates what they pay for your area in insurance premiums."
Griffin said the inspection looks at four areas of service. Inspectors look at staffing levels, training, training transcripts, last ten structure fires and, "They look at how you respond and how much equipment you put there. 50% of your score comes from how you respond as a fire  department... then there is a five and a half percent score based off community outreach which is where you do fire prevention programs, fire inspections and investigations."
He explained, "We received a class two with this rating and in 2000 we were at a 5 rating ad went to a 3 in 2008. This year we went from a 3 to 2 rating. You can see how 4, 5, and 6 is your national average even in North Carolina. You can see how hard a class one is to achieve. In North Carolina there are 38 class two's. We are very proud of that score. Our staff worked very hard. Just to give you one example, every member to get max points, so when they look at you, they look at the whole department but then they break it down by each member. Each member to get our max points for training has to have 240 hours. We probably had 50% more of our department that achieved every single of the 240 training hours that year. For volunteers, that's a lot to put that type of training hours in."
Griffin explained, "What you can expect to see... each insurance company uses their own formula and that formula that they use dictates their rates so depending on what insurance provider a homeowner uses, that will decide how much of a cost savings that three to a two rating drop is. What I did see is, typically on a homeowner's side when you start getting into the three, two and one range it's not a huge cost savings for residential but in some cases it can be a larger cost savings for commercial properties."
He said the new rating will take effect in September of this year and, "All of our property owners on the Island should see some type of cost savings and what we will encourage them is, as it gets closer, we will make sure to get some press out on that to remind everybody. But you can follow up in September with your insurance company to make sure they captured that score and see what savings that provided."
Councilman Jay Healy explained, "You guys should be extremely proud. That's a great job."
Griffin said, "Kure Beach got the same ISO rating."
Town Manager Bruce Oakley said, "That stuff doesn't happen by accident, it takes a lot of work and I appreciate you guys sticking to it."

Woman Pleads Guilty To Collision That Killed Infant In Carolina Beach

CAROLINA BEACH - On Friday March 22nd a child has passed away following an accident in Carolina Beach when a Jeep hit the female child and a woman.
Heather Ligotino - the driver of the Jeep - recently plead guilty to misdemeanor death by motor vehicle and was conditionally discharged. She must complete twelve months of unsupervised probation and 150 hours of community service. If she violates the terms of that conditional release, the judge could sentence her to time in prison.
According to Carolina Beach Police Detective Sergeant Scott Hettinger, "Just after 10:00AM on March 22, 2019, Carolina Beach Police Department, Carolina Beach Fire Department and New Hanover County EMS were dispatched to a call involving a motor vehicle collision with pedestrians. The incident occurred at the intersection of South Lake Park Blvd and Cape Fear Blvd. in Carolina Beach."
He explained, "Emergency responders rendered aide to the pedestrian victims, who are described as an adult female and female child. Investigators on scene determined both victims were struck by a vehicle. The female and child were transported to New Hanover Regional Medical Center for further treatment. After advanced lifesaving medical treatment, the child later succumbed to the injuries and died. The identities of the victims are not being released at this time. The investigation is ongoing and no additional information is available at this time."
Lake Park Blvd was closed for several hours as police investigated the scene. The identity of the driver of the Jeep has not yet been released.
Officials with the North Carolina Department of Transportation met with officials from the Town of Carolina Beach on Monday April 1st at the intersection of Lake Park Blvd and Cape Fear Blvd to discuss improving safety along Lake Park Blvd at various locations.
Following the horrible incident, the Town of Carolina Beach reached out to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to improve safety along Lake Park Blvd including improvements to crosswalks and other measures.

New Police Chief Introduced During Dec. 8th Council Meeting


The Carolina Beach Town Council welcomed their new Police Chief during the opening of their December 8th, meeting. Vic Ward - retired from the NC Highway Patrol - will take over the position of Chief following the retirement of Chief Chris Spivey. 

CAROLINA BEACH  - The Carolina Beach Town Council introduced their new Police Chief, Vic Ward, during their Tuesday December 8th, meeting.
The Council voted Tuesday August 11th, to hire a company to aid in the search for a new Police Chief following the announcement from current Chief Chris Spivey that he planned to retire in December of this year.
Chief Chris Spivey informed the Council on Tuesday July 28th, that he will retire effective December 1st, 2020 after serving within the department for over 20 years.
The Town of Carolina Beach announced in late November that retired State Highway Patrol Officer Vic Ward was hired as Police Chief of Carolina Beach. He began his new position on December 1, 2020.  Ward  assumes responsibility for public safety of the town, overseeing 32 police officers and administrative staff.
Having spent almost 30 years employed with the NC State Highway Patrol (SHP), Vic has experience working as a Trooper, K9 handler, district supervisor, and served as the SHP’s liaison to the state intelligence center and member of the Homeland Security Task Force.  His skills and past duties also include serving as the Commander of the SHP Internal Affairs Unit. Vic retired from the SHP as Deputy Commander (Lieutenant Colonel) where he supervised field operations, executive protection units, and professional standards.  
A native North Carolinian, Vic is married and has two adult children.  He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice from UNC Wilmington and a master’s degree in Justice Administration at Methodist University.  He also is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and Southern Police Institute.
After accepting the position of police chief for Carolina Beach, Vic stated “I am very honored to have been selected as Police Chief of Carolina Beach. I look forward to working with the men and women of the department, town leadership, the community, and all of our public safety partners."
Chief Ward's swearing in ceremony was delayed because the N.C. Board of Training and Standards had not yet officially transmitted the appropriate paperwork to the Town to officially allow him to be sworn as chief. Not a major development, but merely a paperwork delay. Chief Ward will be sworn in the coming weeks during a ceremony at Town Hall once that paperwork has been received by the Town.
Town Manager Bruce Oakley explained, " We went through a real lengthy process and we had over 70 applicants. some really qualified candidates. One stood out more than everyone else and that was Vic. He's an eastern North Carolina native from Whiteville. He is an UNCW Wilmington graduate. He actually worked at the cinema here in Carolina Beach while he was in college."
Oakley explained Ward graduated from the FBI national academy and the south policing institute.
Oakley explained, "He started as a trooper with the NC Highway patrol and worked his way all the top as Deputy commander and was actually interim commander appointed by the governor to the Highway Patrol. So he's gone from trooper all the way to the top so we are real excited about having him here."
Ward said he looks forward to working with the Council and the officers of the department.
Former Police Chief Chris Spivey informed the Town Council on Tuesday July 28th, that he will retire effective December 1st, 2020 after serving within the department for over 20 years.
Town Manager Bruce Oakley explained, "Chief Spivey was hired by the Carolina Beach Police Department in 2000 as a patrol officer. Throughout his more than 20 years of service with the Town, Chief Spivey rose through the ranks, serving in many capacities, including assignments with the Criminal Investigations Division, Narcotics Division, and Supervisory Command Staff. In 2015, he was appointed as the Chief of Police."
During the meeting on July 28th, Oakley explained, "Since I've been here I've never seen a Chief so committed and dedicated to the Town, to the staff, to the citizens. Police Chiefs are always on call but Chief Spivey has taken it to a whole other level. Anytime I've ever needed him no matter what time or no matter what he's got going on, whether he is on vacation... he responds in minutes."
Spivey explained, "It has been a journey and a roller coaster" and, "Twenty years is a long time. At this time it's perfect for me to spend a little more time with my family and after conversation with them, I've decided that December 1st, 2020 would be my retirement date." Spivey thanked the entire Town staff and all police and fire personnel for their service over the year.

Fat Pelican Fundraiser Generates $13K Overnight


 Danny McLaughlin, owner of the Fat Pelican Bar in Carolina Beach posted a photo in recent days of his red BMW with a sign that read, "Help me save my bar, buy my car!". Danny said he's been struggling to pay the bills since bars were ordered to close during COVID-19. Recently people helped by donating $13,000 overnight online. 

CAROLINA BEACH - The Fat Pelican: A long standing Carolina Beach Landmark known worldwide as one of the best Dive Bars on the planet, suffered during the COVID-19 Pandemic and forced closure by local and state orders.
In May of this year owner Danny McLaughlin said since bars and restaurants were closed earlier this year his business has suffered major financial losses and he's been struggling to pay the bills and help his employees.
Speaking with Danny in a local grocery store, he said he's lost a lot of revenue since the pandemic began and he was willing to sell his favorite red BMW to raise money to save his business and help out his employees. He's also been working hard to build unique furniture in a workshop behind the Fat Pelican.
Danny said he's always been an innovative person and he's survived numerous hurricanes over the years and reopened for business, yet the current pandemic closures are taking a massive toll on his and his employees income.
After a Gofundme.com page was started, overnight, $13,000 was donated to the Fat Pelican.
Mike McLaughlin explained, "First off I want to thank everyone who donated to the go fund Me Page set up by my wife . The news article written gives me the credit this is not true this was created and driven by my wife she is a good sole and wanted to help and found away so when you guys are sitting there enjoying the first beer as the pelican reopens I want you to thank Tammy Renee and My Dad Danny for the drive to keep this place open."
Danny said in May he was also considering selling produce at the Fat Pelican.

Harris Teeter Property For Sale: Fat Pelican Owner Got The Old Sign


After many years of waiting for a Harris Teeter to open in Carolina Beach and a legal battle against a Publix Grocery Store opening on adjacent property, the Harris Teeter property has now been put on the market for sale. In July the sign was taken down and Danny at the Fat Pelican got one of the signs.

CAROLINA BEACH - After many years, the sign located on the former property of Jubilee Park in Carolina Beach that advertised a future home of a "Harris Teeter" grocery store, has been taken down and replaced with a for sale sign .
Developers planning to build a Harris Teeter at 1018 N. Lake Park Blvd. challenged a permit issued by the Town in January 2018 that would pave the way for another grocery store on adjacent property as part of a redevelopment project of the Federal Point Shopping Center. That adjacent property is now home to a Publix Grocery Store development.
Harris Teeter challenged the permit for the adjacent Federal Point Shopping Center property in 2018 and a judge ruled against their challenge. Harris Teeter filed an appeal with the NC Court of Appeals.
The Carolina Beach Town Council unanimously voted to approve a request for a Conditional Use Permit at their January 9th, 2018, meeting to redevelop the Federal Point Shopping Center located at 1018 N. Lake Park Blvd. The proposal called for demolition of the Federal Point shopping center and construction of a new 51,469 square foot grocery store with an attached 8,400 square foot multi-tenant building with a patio area. The plans showed areas for two additional future multi-tenant buildings.
On February 8th,  2018, the owners of neighboring property - Jubilee Carolina, LLC - filed in New Hanover County Superior Court to challenge the Council's decision to issue the permit for redevelopment of the Federal Point Shopping Center.
A court hearing was held in New Hanover County.
The judge ruled on May 3rd, in favor of the Town issuing the G.H.K permit to redevelop the Federal Point Shopping Center.
On May 29th, 2018, Jubilee Carolina, LLC, filed an appeal to the May 3rd decision.
In their appeal, it was stated, “To the Honorable court of Appeals of North Carolina: Petitioner Jubilee Carolina, LLC, pursuant to Rule 3 of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure, hereby gives notice of appeal to the Court of Appeals of North Carolina from the order of the Honorable R. Kent Harrell, entered 3 May 2018, which upheld the grant of a conditional use permit by the Town of Carolina Beach to Carolina Beach Development Company 1, LLC for property owned by Wilmington Holding Corporation.”
Background:
In April of 2017, the Council unanimously approved a request from Jubilee Carolina, LLC to modify an existing Conditional Use Permit for a 53,000 square foot Harris Teeter Store and a gas station at 1000 North Lake Park Blvd immediately adjacent to the Federal Point Shopping Center property.
The Council first approved of a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the Harris Teeter development during their August 11th, 2015 meeting. The modification approved in April of 2017 was required to address traffic concerns on Lake Park Blvd.
The Harris Teeter project was based upon interconnectivity with the neighboring Federal Point Shopping Center.
During the January 2018, meeting, Gordon Cobb of GHK Development spoke to the Council explaining, "We do believe in interconnectivity from a planning purpose when it is feasible to do, but as I'm sure you can probably understand our tenant will not allow us to have cross access with a location that is a direct competitor such as a grocery store." He said if the adjacent property were developed as something other than a grocery store, they would allow interconnectivity adding, "It's nothing personal it is just business."
Jubilee Carolina, LLC challenged G.H.K's permit claiming that Council approved a project for a neighboring property with which they claimed they had a contractual agreement with for access easements for interconnectivity and the G.H.K. permit approved for redevelopment of the Federal Point Shopping Center eliminates that access.
In the court documents  Jubilee Carolina, LLC explained to the court, "Julbilee also possesses a contractual right to construct and use a common access on the WHC Property to provide interconnectivity between the WHC Property and the Jubilee Property with respect to the Harris Teeter grocery store to be built on the Jubilee Property."
WHC is short for Wilmington Holding Corporation, owner of the Federal Point Shopping Center.
Jubilee stated in their challenge, "Consistent with that contractual right, the proposed site plan for the Jubilee Property included common access across the WHC Property for the use of both the Jubilee Property and the WHC Property."
Ultimately, Jubilee Carolina, LLC lost their case in the North Carolina Court of Appeals, yet the sign announcing  the "Future Home" of a Harris Teeter grocery store remained on the property.
Last week, local resident Tim R Chestnutt explained, "Ok as many know, the Harris Teeter signs came down today. A landmark thing for this island. I was given both signs, one of which I donated to the Fat Pelican, our local museum. The other I planned to hold onto a while. But I had another idea. With everyone’s support, what if every Friday it goes to a local business to be on display. I’ll drop it off on Friday, and pick it up the following Thursday. Just donate 25 dollars to the Help center. I don’t know if this is a good idea, or what you guys think about it. What do you guys think? Who wants it first?"
Chestnutt had previously posted online that he reached out to Harris Teeter about the status of the property and if they were going to take down the sign. He reported the company said they would contact their real estate division.

Carolina Beach Police Chief Chris Spivey announced his retirement effective December 1st, 2020.  Chief Spivey came to work at the department in 2000 as a patrol officer and worked his way up through the ranks replacing former Chief Ken Hinkle following his termination from the department in 2015. 

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