Council Votes 3-2 for Free Off-Season Street-Side Parking; Morning Commuters Greeted by Negative Billboard

Council Votes 3-2 for Free Off-Season Street-Side Parking; Morning Commuters Greeted by Negative Billboard

Council Votes 3-2 for Free Off-Season Street-Side Parking; Morning Commuters Greeted by Negative Billboard Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 09 March 2022 17:05

Just two miles north of Snow’s Cut Bridge morning commuters were greeted by a new rotation on a digital billboard simply stating “Recall Lynn Barbee.” Mayor Lynn Barbee address the sign on his “Lynn Barbee, Mayor of Carolina Beach” Facebook page sharing “Win! Whoever paid for this, thank you. Best advertisement yet for fiscal responsibility.” 

In a separate post Mayor Barbee addressed last night’s meeting sharing, “As I sit here and try to be be positive about last nights town council meeting, I struggle to spin a positive message for the residents of Carolina Beach. I am taken back to an early conversation when I first thought about running for Town Council.  I recall a conversation with a well respected citizen,  we were discussing the current financial situation of our town and brainstorming how to get out of this financial hole.  I will never forget what he said. "We need someone willing to run, who has good business judgement, who will make the hard decisions required.  It won't be popular, in fact the hard decisions will be brutal."  He said "be prepared to be a one term council person, because they will come after you. Do you have the fortitude to stick to good fiscal management when it get's ugly?". I remember just smiling and thinking that I've done this many times in business.  This is easy.  Just let the data guide you, make the hard decisions, and eat the elephant on bite at a time. Well I was schooled last night.   The only term I could come up with is "Financially Reckless". 

Your town council significantly modified a parking revenue plan that was almost a year in the making.  It undermined the work of our professional town staff and the recommendation of the parking consultants we hired to develop it.  

Why do I call it reckless?

1) We are in the early stages of the FY23 budgeting process.  We have no revenue forecast for FY23.  We have no expense forecast for FY23.  

2) We know inflation is going to hit hard.  We just don't know how bad yet.

3) There was absolutely no reason to make that decision now.  The new parking restrictions don't go into effect until November.  The decision could have easily waited until the FY23 budget was approved.

4) We had just completed a strategic plan.  With relative ease we came to agreement on what must be done to move the town forward, with no plan on how it will be funded, but then worked tirelessly for two months to cut revenue that will no doubt be needed to fund that plan.

5) We did this without a single strategic meeting with the parking consultants we hired.  Not a single new council person held one meeting with the professionals.  Not one! 

I could go on for another hour, but it's done.  Where do we go from here?

I have to admit, it just got a lot harder.  I will struggle to make decisions that are popular but fly in the face of sound financial principles.  We sit in front of a mountain of need on the order of $30 to $40M.  Interest rates are climbing, inflation is soaring, and we are turning away revenue.

I think Mayor Pro Tem Healy was very clear last night.  We have two controllable revenue streams.  Parking and Property Taxes.  Well we just cut one of those two.

I heard lots of rhetoric around potential cuts and revenue swaps that we could use to "make up the difference".  Those play well on social media and behind a microphone, but they don't usually manifest themselves at the bottom line.

With all that said, I am not the smartest, and I can learn.  I will continue to fight to right this ship, popular or not.

Do I have a prediction?  It's hard to say.  The prevailing rhetoric last night was that we will take an axe to town services and projects to make up the difference.  Having been thru this the last two years, I'm not optimistic.  You can't fire debt, police cars, water pumps, solid waste systems.  You can not save your way to prosperity. Without revenue increases you can't fund future needs.

The other option is to significantly raise taxes.  Also not a pretty thought.  

My best guess?  We just kicked the can down the road a little further. 

So enough about that.  The revenue damage has been done.  Next step, figure out the cuts and tax increases to pay for it.  It should be a fun 3 months and I hope I'm wrong.  I hope we can find a way to keep the positive financial momentum we currently enjoy and fought so hard for over the last two years.  That's my goal.

We had a good chuckle after the meeting last night.  There seems to be an appetite for council to go at each other.  It's just not there.  I have known members of this council for a long time, they are my friends and neighbors.  I respect that they have their views and though I may disagree, they have a vote just like I do. This is just how governance works.

You can always reach me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

At the Carolina Beach Town Council meeting held this past Tuesday parking was a huge discussion. Out of the approximately 30 people who got up to speak during public comment only 4 showed their support for the year-round changes while others shared their distaste for the decision and how it was made in a workshop rather than in a regular council meeting. Those for the new parking changes brought up possible tax increases, making tourist “pay their fair share” and the many infrastructure issues facing the town and its future. Those against referenced the changes as “shameful,” “causing resentment” with many sighting we were not being “good neighbors” to those just North and South of Carolina Beach. 

When it came to discussion amongst council Mayor Lynn Barbee laid out a timeline of parking discussions and recommendations that were made by PIVOT that had included removing both residents and non-resident year-round passes, increasing rates/ fines and seeking more physical spaces. Barbee continued adding the changes to parking that had been recommended by town staff and the PIVOT Parking Company, there had been a lot of discussions but the council was welcome to make a motion for change. Councilman Joe Benson immediately made a motion to amend the 2022 parking rules by reinstating the issuance of non-residence passes with time constraints, he continued sharing other revenue sources and already made budget cuts that would fill the off-season void. Councilwoman Deb LeCompte addressed the Mayor saying “I think we have heard a lot of decisiveness that’s been made between businesses and residents and I think it’s all a projection of what’s been portrayed to the public. We’ve created a dived between our business community and our residents.” She went on to say non-residents contribute to every cause we put on for this Island, they are the first to volunteer. “I think this is a thank you for everything, but sorry we have nothing for you.” She went on to provide another amendment charging non-residents $365 for the year. The motion was denied 2-3. Councilman Hoffer stated “its too dangerous to start upending what’s been put in place….it’s gonna have to wait in 2023 as far as I’m concerned.’” Mayor Pro Team Healy stated “the bottom line is its a lot of money we have to pay….what boggles my mind right now is we are actually having a discussion on how to lose money versus making money which is just incredible. I am going to make a statement to council and you can write it down…if you don’t believe in taking care of our tax-paying citizens you have the wrong min set, totally wrong mindset.” He continued “we have two ways of making revenue for this town, we have taxes and we have parking.” Healy shared a slide with projected revenue for October and the possibility of losing leases on private lots that could cause a possible $400,000+ loss in revenue that would cause cuts from the Fire and Police Departments. Healy went on to share the new council has not seen the process of making cuts, they had the right to make the decision at a workshop because it was a “time-sensitive issue and the council at the time had 30 years of experience.” Healy went on to share the growth of New Hanover County as a whole stating, “we have built it and they will come….Personally, I think we stay with the original plan.” Councilwomen LeCompte shared $64,0000 of revenue in off-season parking was a drop on the bucket to the millions needed for infrastructure. She continued “you said 30 years experience on this council when you made this decision…the bulk of that 30 years was Steve, LeAnn, and JoDan; two of them were opposed adamantly to this change.” She went on to say parking and taxes were not the only stream of revenue. Conversations about revenue, taxes and budget cuts continued amongst council with Healy bringing up inflation in the budget. Mayor Barbee added, “to cut revenue without seeing the budget is just reckless behavior. Whatever motions you put on this table right now…I am voting with this man right over here (Town Manager Bruce Oakley); we hired him two years ago, he has turned this place around..we have seen our fund balance grow, I have 110% confidence in him and his staff. My vote is on his (Oakley) recommendations. LeCompte’s non-resident parking motion was voted down 3-2. Councilwoman LeCompte then shared Mayor Barbee’s previous proposal to provide free parking for the months of January and February which was again voted down 3-2. Councilman Hoffer then brought up his previous suggestion to offer free parking for roadside town parking or metered spots from March through February that was tweaked and later voted for  3-2 for free roadside parking December 1 through the end of February. Parking and its potential revenue will surely be a continued topic for council. 






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