Debate over new park in Sunset Beach
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SUNSET BEACH, NC (WWAY) -- Sunset beach is looking for a new home for it's 50-year-old pontoon bridge. The town is eying a piece a property, where a lot of folks want see the bridge move and it certainly turned into a heated debate amongst Sunset Beach residents Monday night.

Many are focused on preserving their natural environment, but the price of the land is swaying people one way, or the other.

The town is considering purchasing 5 acres of undeveloped land for a future town park.

Sunset Beach Councilwoman Carol Scott says they should put the decision on hold. "I would opt for putting this off, trying to get more grant money, trying to negotiate that price further down and doing our work on setting the priorities for the town," said Scott.

The land has a price of almost $4 million dollars and that is something that does not sit well with taxpayers, especially in this rough economy.

Sunset Beach Mayor Ron Klein said, "Despite the way it might look to some of you out there, we're still bargaining on the piece of property so things can be worked out."

Some resident's feel the price is too high and that the land can be purchased for less than $3.75 million dollars. The town applied for grant money to help defray the cost but were denied any grants.

"Yea, we were unsuccessful in getting grants," said Sunset Beach Mayor Pro-Tem Lou Devita. "We thought we could get a big buy in, but we didn't do that. Our price has moved down because the real estate market has moved down."

Some of the town council members support buying the land while others are against it.
That's the same situation for residents of Sunset Beach. Many were not hesitant to voice their opinions.

Those who support the purchase say now is the time. They fear if they hold out any longer on the land that the price will go up. They're also scared a developer will come in and ruin the natural beauty that Sunset Beach has preserved for years.

"We can think about where we want to be at some point in the future and figure out how we are going to get there and use the downturn of this economy to our advantage the best way we know how," said Devita.

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This isn't the first time the Sunset Beach town council has embarked on a controversial spending spree. A few years ago they rammed through a $30+ million sewer project, that is going to cost homeowners $8,000 to $12,000, without any input from the residents. Sewers aren't needed on the mainland, but homeowners will be saddled with debt to pay for something they don't need and didn't want.

In 2008, the council bought a piece of property under the new bridge for $1.9 million for use as a boat ramp even though less than 5% of residents have a boat and many of them are stored on private docks or in marinas. This boat ramp will be available free of charge to anyone, but Sunset Beach taxpayers have to foot the bill.

Now they want to pay $3.75 million plus $600,000 in development costs to buy a tract for use as a park, again without buy-in from the taxpayers. Last year it was going to be another boat ramp, then a park and now a site for the old swing bridge.

Isn't it nice to be able to spend other peoples money as if it were your own? Next election vote the bums out.

How can Sunset Beach residents trust anything "Flip-Flop" Lou DeVita has to say. One year ago, he voted against buying the property. Then, 30 days later he suddenly changed his mind and voted in favor of the purchase. What transpired in those 30 days to cause Lou to flip-flop?

Last November he won re-election by the skin of his teeth and afterwards had the audacity to claim he was given a mandate. At Monday night's meeting Flip-Flop Lou stated he polled 100 people and they were in favor of the purchase by a 60-40 margin. If Flip-Flop Lou was a true peoples representative, he would put the issue up for a voter referendum. But, he knows the issue is a loser and refuses to do so. Too bad none of these so-called representatives are up for re-election this year.

Lou DeVita seems to have forgotten what the Sunset Beach electorate thinks of his arrogant decision-making. He's awfully full of himself for somebody who less than a year ago retained his seat by a pathetic 53 votes over a complete unknown. If he votes for this park, he's as good as announcing that he won't run for re-election --because he knows what the electorate will do to him if he does.

The economy must be just dandy at the Sunset Beach Chamber of Commerce and Dept. of Revenue! 5 million dollars to keep an old bridge? I know there aren't any roads that need work there or any 1950's trailers that should be hauled off, right?

The state just paid to build a new bridge there so that people won't have to drive into the drink and can actually evacuate the island when the need comes. I'm all about history and memories too, but $5,000,000.00 for a half rotten, out-of-date piece of roadway? There is nothing spectacular about it with the exception that its about 40 years out of date. I doubt it will be an outstanding, revenue churning tourist attraction. They must have one heck of a tax base surplus there!!! I suppose if the local taxpayers agree, they can waste their money however they want.

The problem is there's a handful of retired, maudlin zealots with way too much time on their hands leading the charge while the responsible people -- who have to go to work each day -- say nothing. The Gores will happily sell land at twice what it's worth. Who wouldn't?

The big question is why 3 Councilmembers and the Town Administrator, year after year, shamelessly continue to try to buy this parcel at a wildly inflated price -- grants, appraisals, and need notwithstanding.

I think it's time to follow the money.

I think you hit the nail on the head. This town didn't start spending money like drunken sailors until Town Administrator Gary Parker was hired three years ago. Since then it's been spend, spend, spend and the council blindly rubber stamps every expenditure.

Parker has publicly admitted there are at least 2 building inspectors on the payroll that are not needed since there is NO building activity, but said he doesn't want to fire them because he would have to train replacements when building picks up again. What kind of idiot keeps people on the payroll that aren't needed?

The question that needs to be answered is what is driving Parker to spend millions of dollars? Who is the "wizard" behind the curtain telling him what to do? Maybe WWAY should do some investigative reporting and find out what's going on, because something smells in Sunset Beach and it's not the rotten fish.

Jim: I thought you announced you were staying out of this!?!?