Mayor Barbee Seeks Parking Compromise at Workshop

Mayor Barbee Seeks Parking Compromise at Workshop

Mayor Barbee Seeks Parking Compromise at Workshop Featured

By / Local News / Friday, 25 February 2022 16:34

It is two weeks before parking goes live in Carolina Beach but council is clearly divided about the future plans. During Tuesday’s workshop when the “managers updates” got to parking Town Manager Bruce Oakley noted there was some “differences of opinions” with parking, asking Mayor and Council to provide staff with a direction they want to go. Mayor Lynn Barbee stated he had received a letter from LeAnn Pierce and called her back where she asked Barbee to come to some sort of compromise so you (staff) can move on with the parking program. Mayor Barbee went on to say, “I think we can drop January and February, I have talked to some residence, we don’t spend public money in January and February for events and things like that.” “Given that it seems like that’s a good compromise for me so I’m going to throw that out as a motion we can see where it goes. I think we give you (staff) the direction to drop January and February’s charge for next year until we get more data. My motion is that we seek a compromise amongst council to give you clear direction and basically split off-season parking in half.” Councilman Joe Benson immediately made a motion to “amend the motion on the floor to strike November and December as paid months maintaining the 2021 four months of free parking.” Councilman Mike Hoffer said he wanted to amend the amendment followed by a “me too” from Councilwoman Deb LeCompte. Hoffer went on saying “I think in November, December, January and February we should just leave the dang bags on the meters and go ahead and charge in the lots. Boom, lots are paid meter parking is free.” 

Councilwomen LeCompte added, “we still haven’t heard from the public, fully; I really don’t like making these kinds of decisions in a workshop.” Mayor Lynn Barbee addressed Oakley stating, “What it sounds like is you are not going to get direction from us because; we are going to go back through parking from start to finish.” Councilwoman LeCompte asked to ad it (parking) to the March agenda. Mayor Barbee asked, “Kim how do I unwind all these motions…” Councilman Benson stated, “There were three new people on council….I know there was a need to get enforcement out on Freeman Park very quickly but this is a lightening rod in town.” Oakley responded, “what I heard was the projectory per space for March I didn’t know the parking item on the agenda.” Councilman Benson stated “parkings on the agenda as I’d like laid out as a member of council.” Councilwoman LeCompte questioned if the town had established contacts with all of the lot owners where Assistant Town Manager Ed Parvin they had all but one. 

Mayor Pro Tem Jay Healy said he wanted to see from PIVOT how much money we lose charging lots Vs meters…I do think there is a give and take here.” He continued saying maybe the first hour could be free and majority of the business in this town happens after 5 o’clock. Healey went on siting taxes where Benson I think that assumes a static environment on revenues…continuing “look up and down the coast, if PIVOT manages or enforces in Wrightsville and Wrightsville doesn’t have it then…well they can lead the way on that as far as I’m concerned.” Mayor Barbee quickly answered “I’m not worried about Wrightsville’s budget, I’m worried about ours.” Council went on amongst each other about balanced budget, revenue, parking projections and private parking lot permits. Oakley addressed the Mayor saying “staff will do as directed we took the direction in November to go forward and we brought it back at the retreat to try and get direction because Ed in particular and staff has spent a lot of time of this. A lot of capital cost, hard cost, fixed cost on this.” Mayor Barbee asked what direction do you think you got? Oakley responded I though it was to move forward as presented. There was no clarification with staff on how to move forward, Mayor Barbee finished saying, “I think the residence lost big today, I think we tried to do a compromise and Im pretty upset about it. I am 1 of 5.” Councilman Hoffer shared they had time, Mayor Barbee disagreed stating, “He (Oakley) says he doesn’t have time, that is what he asked you…that’s what he asked at the retreat.” Councilman Benson asked “who works for who”…Barbee said He (Oakley) give me some direction with Benson responding that’s why I asked two weeks ago for this to be put on the March meeting. 

After the meeting it took some clarification if “parking” would be an agenda item as requested at the Workshop but staff confirmed it will be an “item of business” not a public hearing. The public always has the opportunity to speak but it will not be an agenda item at March’s meeting.

After the meeting Mayor Lynn Barbee shared he hoped council could come to a compromise together and lead staff like they were elected to do. 

Councilwoman LeCompte stated she will not continue to make these kind of decisions at workshops and that is exactly why they were where they are in the way of parking. Councilman Benson shared “I’m against year-round parking. I’ve been clear on this. I believe it would be detrimental to our businesses in the CBD. At our workshop this morning, we were shown a map with over 100 new parking spaces today, all of which will be on town property. There are dozens of additional spaces to be harvested, each of which will bring revenue to the town. Taken in total, I believe the additional revenue from these new spaces would far exceed that which the town would hope to earn in parking from November 1 through the end of February.” Mayor Pro Team Healy wished they would have had a little more time and weren’t under the fun to get management established at Freeman Park. 

So what did the email from former Mayor LeAnn Pierce say? “Good morning and I hope you are doing well. As I engage in conversation with citizens around the county for my campaign for county commissioner, the issue of year around paid parking in Carolina Beach continues to be a concern. As a business owner in Carolina Beach myself, I continue to believe we should not charge in the off season. I do not believe the revenue is worth the hardship it will cause businesses and the divide it creates with citizens of New Hanover County. I ask that you revisit this issue and look for a possible compromise. Thank you for your willingness to serve and please let me know if I can help in any way. Looking forward to a great summer season!”

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