Oak Island residents voiced concerns about development, beach erosion, the pier complex, and parking during the year’s first informal “town hall” session Monday. Council also tabled action on a proposed drive-through at a local eatery and received a 330-plus page report on the future of parks and recreation needs.

Rosanne Fortner of the Beach Preservation Society invited residents to bring clean, used Christmas trees to the town’s lot near the beach cabana off East Dolphin Drive through January 27. Volunteers will use them to fortify dunes in the former Yaupon section on February 1 at 9 a.m.

Resident Mike Defeo asked if members of council would agree to modify the uniform development ordinance (UDO) to restrict “big box” stores to the mainland. He cited Dollar General as an example.

Council members uniformly responded that they would not be bound by a hypothetical constraint.

Council Member John Bach elaborated, noting that he unsuccessfully advocated for an economic development officer position in the current budget and wanted to see renewal of the downtown. Still, he could not promise to deny future prospects, a sentiment also embraced by members Loman Scott, Charlie Blalock and Jeff Winecoff. Member Sheila Bell was absent.

Resident Betty Thorne said she was concerned about the finances at the Oak Island Pier and 801 Event Center. She stated that reports from the past six months showed a significant deficit.

Winecoff said he agreed to the pier complex plan with the understanding that the town would have two years to prove the option viable. Bach agreed that he was concerned with the trend, but also that the concept needed more time to be judged.

A resident of the 6600 block of West Beach Drive expressed concern about ocean erosion and said the area had recently lost about 20-feet of beach. Town Manager David Kelly said he was continuing to work with town consultants and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on several projects.

Another resident asked council to re-consider imposing paid parking near the beach to help fund sand projects.

Resident Rick Jennings asked council to seriously consider planning for a new recreation center and called existing facilities “crowded and out of date.” He said an investment by the town could help keep residents healthy.

Setbacks

Council revisited a request to reduce the side yard setback for accessory structures in CB community business zones. The change would bring the current UDO in line with previous development rules and apply only to interior, adjoining lots with CB zoning, some of which are as narrow as 20 feet. It would allow accessory structures at the lot line, just as is now allowed for primary structures in commercial areas.

Council approved the change unanimously.

Drive-through hearing

Council tabled for two months a special use permit request by Scott Rudolph for a drive-through lane at Scoop Shop, selling ice cream, doughnuts and coffee, located at 4922 East Oak Island Drive. The plan appeared to show utilization of a substantial portion of the public alleyway along the north side of the property. That alley is the sole vehicular access for at least one single-family residence in the neighborhood.

Neighbors complained that illegal parking and congestion might worsen if the plan were approved. Council asked the applicant to reconsider the concept in a manner to minimize impacts on the neighbors.

Parks plan

Dennis Maneri, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, presented highlights of the new master plan along with Jim Herstine, professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

They spoke about assessing the current situation, stimulating discussion for the future and formulating a plan of action.

They reviewed population statistics, including the finding that the majority of residents are in their mid-50s, have income in the $60,000-range and at least a high school education.

Maneri and Herstine reviewed parts of a survey, which had a 16-percent response rate and 78-percent participation by town residents – both good numbers, Herstine said.

The report covers many areas and Maneri asked council to start planning now for big-ticket needs such as a new recreation center. Staffing and a future separate maintenance division were also mentioned.

The top five requests for “new” programs were: a beach music festival, food truck rodeo, outdoor movies, 24-hour access to fitness facilities and more kayak trips.

Maneri also asked that council consider strengthening the UDO to specify that required preservation of “open space” means saving areas that could practically be used for passive or other recreation, instead of just retention ponds or wetlands which have separate development restrictions.