Carolina Beach workshop devolves into paid parking squabble

CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WWAY) — A compromise turned debate in Tuesday’s Carolina Beach workshop.

Mayor Lynn Barbee presented a compromise for year round parking, offering to keep January and February free but charge for parking in November and December.

Councilmember Jay Healy agreed, saying with $1.2 million to cover in Carolina Beach’s budget after inflation, the money needs to come from somewhere.

“They want parks, they want infrastructure, water towers, but no one wants to pay for it,” said Healy. “This is what it comes down to, folks.”

The discussion comes in the wake of lost parking funds during the pandemic. When Barbee introduced the measure, Councilmember Joe Benson asked to amend it, wanting to take paid parking in the off-season off the table. Councilmember Mike Hoffer then asked for all street parking to be free in the off-season.

“But damn, this is a lightning rod,” Benson remarked.

And paid parking has been a lightning rod in the community for years, with most every local weighing in.”

“Oh yeah, I think it’s ridiculous in the off season to have paid parking. I mean people are suffering enough,” said local, Frank Ermel.
Colleen Cone, a resident of 26 years added, “The locals look forward to coming to the island to visit the local restaurants and things like that. So it becomes our time, our island. But if you have to pay, it’s going to deter a lot of people.”

Councilmember Deb LeCompte and Benson asked for public opinion and the issue to be pushed back to March 8’s council meeting.

“I don’t, I really don’t like making these kinds of decisions in workshops,” LeCompte voiced.

Disagreements among council led to no resolution and little direction for council staff working on the budget. This could potentially impact project like the marina rebuild, lake dredging, and bike path plans with the ability to affect property taxes if the remaining $1.2 million is not found for the Carolina Beach budget.

“”I think the residents lost big today,” said Barbee. “I think we tried to do a compromise and I’m pretty upset about it. But I’m one of five.”

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