News: 2012 Year in Review

by Staff
Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Kayne Darrell was awarded the Lumina News 2011 Person of the Year for her active work in the grassroots Stop Titan movement. Darrell has been fighting against the coal-burning Titan America’s Carolina’s Cement plant since 2008. 

Wrightsville Beach residents continued spending more of their income on housing, while their average earnings declined. American Community Survey estimated owners of 39.6 percent of the town’s housing spent 35 percent or more of their household income on monthly owner costs. 

Wilmington City Council denied a special use permit application for a height increase to one of the buildings proposed on the site of the former Babies Hospital at 7225 Wrightsville Ave. The 4-3 vote on Jan. 3 prevented Bailey and Associates from adding 15 feet to the building. 

2012 tax assessments revealed assessed values for tax purposes at Wrightsville Beach fell by an estimated 24 percent since 2008. Commercial and residential property values were averaged to reach that figure. 

The Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen aired the subject of a smoking ban for its beach strand. Mayor David Cignotti, supported by Alderman Bill Sisson, pushed for a second hearing during the BOA meeting on Jan. 12. 


The BOA called for new procedures against reckless kite boarders and regulation of personal watercraft speeds near bridges. 

A study conducted by ICF International revealed that the maximum total health-care cost to residents of New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties could swell to an additional $6.3 to $6.6 million due to emissions from the proposed Titan Cement plant. 

Three full-time Wrightsville Beach police officers were placed on paid administrative leave on Jan. 31. 

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and city council held a press conference Tuesday, Jan. 31, to announce serious talks about bringing a minor league baseball team to Wilmington. 

In the annual state of the county address on Feb. 6, New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chairman Ted Davis recapped the county’s economic recovery announced plans to meet future fiscal and environmental challenges. 

On Feb. 2, the BOA passed new parking rules and restrictions for Harbor Island that identified a residential district.

The BOA unanimously approved the addition of a new sergeant position to oversee the Wrightsville Beach Police Department’s detective division. 

Republican Rick Catlin began the primary election filings to run for a seat in the North Carolina House of Representatives. 

Following an internal investigation into police conduct the WBPD announced on Feb. 21 that Sgt. R. Miller and Cpl. S. Appler were demoted two ranks, while former MPO M. Altilio submitted his resignation. 

North Carolina Senator David Rouzer, R-Johnston, officially opened his southeastern headquarters on Oleander Drive in Wilmington as a part of his run for Congress in the 7th District. 

The North Carolina Division of Energy and Natural Resources rendered a decision on Feb. 29 to issue an air permit for the proposed Titan Cement plant in Castle Hayne.


Former New Hanover County Commissioner candidate Deb Butler filed to run against incumbent state Sen. Thom Goolsby in the 9th district. 

After more than two hours of public debate on March 8, Wrightsville Beach elected officials voted 3-2 against a proposed smoking ban.

Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House presented renewed police patrol manning strategies to elected officials during the regular meeting of the BOA on March 8. 

According to United State Census Bureau estimates, New Hanover County ranked ninth out of North Carolina’s 100 counties in household income inequality. 

Hundreds of New Hanover County residents rallied together in downtown Wilmington on March 15 in the wake of a unanimous county commissioner vote that rejected a nearly $9,000 family planning grant to be used by the health department for the purchase of IUDs.


On Sunday, April 1, under the direction of Wrightsville Beach Fire Department Chief Frank Smith, Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue director Dave Baker and Capt. Jeremy Owens took the frontline in a town-wide effort to curtail dangerous kiteboarding. 

New Hanover County Commissioners voted 3-2 on April 2 to pass the family planning grant in the amount of $8,899 for the health department to purchase intrauterine devices.

An inflammatory SLAPP was settled out of court in New Hanover County. Two New Hanover County residents, Kayne Darrell and Dr. David Hill, were sued for slander a year prior by Titan America for statements made during a public commenting period. 

Campaign signs popped up overnight signaled the beginning of absentee one-stop early voting, which began April 19. 

There were multiple lane closures on the Heide Trask Drawbridge as the North Carolina Department of Transportation steadily worked on bridge rehabilitation. 

The Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen acknowledged the impact of a grassroots effort to ban cigarette smoking on the town’s beach strand and turned a petition over to the election board. 


Prominent Wrightsville Beach home designer, builder and developer, Charles Nichols “Nick” Garrett Jr., 53, of Wilmington, passed away suddenly on Saturday, April 21, from a reported heart attack. 

Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House told town residents during a quarterly Chat with the Chief on April 19 to dial 911 for complaints, adding that callers should state that the complaint is a non-emergency.

Hopeful watermen gathered around Crystal Pier on April 28 to swim, run and rescue for their chance to join the select squad of Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue. 

A child with a severe respiratory illness, neighbors stricken with terminal disease, plummeting local economies and blighted towns were some of the stories shared by citizens of various towns with cement plants that gathered in Castle Hayne on May 6. 

North Carolina Senator David Rouzer defeated former United States Marine Ilario Pantano of Wilmington in a close race for the GOP nomination in the 7th Congressional District. 

County Commissioner Jason Thompson was ousted by first-time commissioner candidate Beth Dawson during the primaries on May 8.  

The Wrightsville Beach Police Department announced on May 10 that Matthew Monroe had been named WBPD Officer of the Year by police chief Dan House. 

The BOA voted on May 10 to create a new parking district on North and South Channel avenues requiring residents who intend to park on the street to purchase parking permits. 

New Hanover County’s FY 2012-13 budget proposed 8.85 cents per $100 of value to balance the revenue neutral budget. 

New Hanover County Board of Elections’ verification of the Wrightsville Beach smoking ban petition signatures was completed. 


Beryl, the second named storm of the season, passed by Wrightsville Beach on May 30, before the 2012 hurricane season officially began June 1.

Newly selected members of the Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue squad completed the annual four-hour lifeguard challenge in preparation for manning their stands on Memorial Day weekend. 

After 14 years of manning the day-to-day operations of Sweetwater Surf Shop, the landmark downtown Wrightsville Beach surf shop’s managing partner, Tony Butler, stepped down. 

During the last of its five budget workshops in June, Mayor Pro Tem Susan Collins and Alderman Darryl Mills asked to lower the fund balance and the revenue neutral tax rate to reward the town’s property owners. 

The aquifer from which Wrightsville Beach receives its drinking water is adjacent to seawater. The balance that has prevented seawater from entering the aquifer shifted due to major water withdraws and threatened the town’s access to potable water. 


On July 1, temperatures reached 100 degrees in the Wilmington area, breaking a record high of 98 degrees on that date in 1990. 

Wrightsville’s registered voters would decide whether to ban smoking on the beach strand during a special referendum ballot on Nov. 6. That decision was unanimously made during a Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen meeting on June 7.

After 37 years of service to the Wrightsville Beach Public Works Department, Tom Ames retired. Ames served as the assistant to the director of Wrightsville Beach Public Works.

BOA unanimously voted on July 12 to allow the Harbor Island Garden Club to conduct an Adopt-A-Tree fundraising campaign to restore white lights to the town’s 25 live oak trees at holiday time. 

The New Hanover County Sheriff’s office showed off the newest member of its fleet at the public boat ramp in Wrightsville Beach on July 12. As part of the Cape Fear Maritime task force, the new boat will enhance security presence on the water. 

Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti described the celebrations on Fourth of July as “unruly” and the public safety departments had their hands full with fights breaking out, intoxicated boaters and boaters without boating licenses.

Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue placed in third in the small beach division of the regional United States Lifesaving Association Lifeguard Championships. The competition was held in Jacksonville Beach, Fla.  

Wrightsville Beach accrued costs from the recycling of nonresident materials. More than 80 percent of materials placed inside the recycling centers come from nonresidents. 

The city of Wilmington employed the services of lobbyist group McGuireWoods Consulting to further its political agenda in the General Assembly. This was the first time the city employed a lobbyist group to help promote its political agenda.


Lumina News was the recipient of the Brown Pelican Award from the North Carolina Coastal Federation. The award signifies a commitment to reporting coastal issues. 

A piece of angle iron broke off the Heide Trask Drawbridge on July 28, preventing it from opening and closing properly. The emergency repairs impeded traffic for weeks.

Nineteen-year-old Ethan Murrell’s car collided with a utility pole. Murrell was driving at speeds close to 70 mph when he passed a Wrightsville Beach Police officer at 1:30 a.m.  He was airlifted from the north end.

Residents of the city of Wilmington would vote in November on a tax increase to pay for the new baseball stadium downtown. The new projected cost of the stadium was $37 million, which is $5 million less than projected.

Wrightsville Beach town manager Bob Simpson submitted his resignation letter on Aug. 7 to step down Nov. 1. Simpson served as the town manager since 2005.

BOA unanimously voted on Aug. 16 to limit the speed of Jet Ski’s within 100 feet of the town’s fixed bridges in Banks Channel.

 A piling and cross bracing beam broke off Crystal Pier on Aug. 26. No one was injured in the incident; however, there was a temporary ban on surfing and swimming near the pier.


The town of Wrightsville Beach considered purchasing a room in the New Hanover County Emergency Operations Center. In 2003 and 2006, the town rejected the offer. 

Wilmington is one of four cities in North Carolina to possess operating red light cameras. The city renewed a one-year contract with American Traffic Solutions.

Wrightsville Beach Elementary School was reported to exceed capacity by more than 100 students. Alternative classroom space was leased from Wrightsville Beach Baptist Church. 

On Sept. 11, the Wilmington Fire Department Station No. 2 broke ground on the Firefighters Memorial, which is scheduled to be completed by 2013.

Tourism in New Hanover County showed record highs as the Convention and Visitors Bureau announced New Hanover County’s room occupancy tax collection rate was the highest it’s been since the 2008 fiscal year. 


On Oct.1, the North Carolina Department of Transportation began maintenance construction on the Heide Trask Drawbridge. 

After 30 years of service to the Wrightsville Beach Police Department, Captain Teresa Fountain retired, effective Oct. 1.

Wrightsville Beach Police Department Captain P. Burdette Jr. began his service to the town on Oct. 2, after taking over for Captain Teresa Fountain. 

Two boats collided on Oct. 5 at approximately 2:15 a.m. near the intersection of Banks and Motts channels. The boats were traveling in opposite directions when the collision occurred.

The town of Wrightsville Beach appointed Steve Dellies as the new assistant public works director following the retirement of Tom Ames.

A ban on spearfishing was approved by town officials. The ban would be applied to Johnnie Mercer’s and Crystal piers. 

The North Carolina Rate Bureau filled a request with the N.C. Department of Insurance to raise insurance premiums for homeowners. New Hanover County and other coastal counties’ rates will increase by 30 percent.

Kathryn Angela Ward was struck by a taxi at 1:40 a.m. on Oct. 20, after getting out of another cab in the center lane of Causeway Drive.


Renovation plans to Crystal Pier were released, which included a widening of the structure by six feet on both sides and adding back the 30-foot section that was destroyed by strong surf. 

Wilmington residents voted against the stadium referendum by 70 percent. 

The race for the 7th Congressional District between incumbent Mike McIntyre and opponent David Rouzer came within 500 votes. According to unofficial results, McIntyre received 50.1 percent of the votes while Rouser received 49.9 percent of the votes.

Wrightsville Beach residents voted in favor of the smoking referendum that would ban smoking on Wrightsville Beach by a margin of 1,036 to 548.  

Repairs to the jetty at the north side of Masonboro Island that will cost $4.9 million were set to begin in December. The funding would come from supplemental federal funds that were established for projects damaged by Hurricane Irene.

Wilmington City Council accepted Bill Haneman’s donation of the deed to 6001 Mariner Lane, which will be used as a public recreation park. 

North Carolina Sen. David Rouzer called for a recount in the 7th Congressional District race. The recount comes as the result of the election, which McIntyre led by 655 out of 300,000 votes cast. 

The rise of sea levels and climate change was the topic of conversation at the North Carolina Beach, Inlet and Waterway Association’s annual conference on Nov. 19. Experts stated that Wilmington’s sea level has been rising 2 millimeters per year.  


Beach renourishment was set to begin at Carolina at Kure beaches in December. Each beach will receive approximately $4.6 million in funding as part of the Coastal Storm Damage Reduction Project.

The Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transportation Advisory Committee met on Nov. 26 to discuss the potential changes or replacements to the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. 

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