ONLINE UPDATE: Beach towns to prepare ROT flexibility, insurance rate resolutions

by Kelly Corbett
Friday, January 17, 2014

New Hanover County beach towns will write resolutions requesting more Room Occupancy Tax spending flexibility and opposing proposed homeowner insurance rate increases with plans to form a council for general advocacy against Biggert-Waters.

Wrightsville, Carolina and Kure beach town officials met with state representatives on Friday, Jan. 17, at the Kure Beach Community Center, to reach a consensus on issues facing the three municipalities.

Wrightsville Beach Alderwoman Lisa Weeks made a request for a member from each council to get together for general advocacy opposing Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. Wrightsville Beach Mayor Bill Blair will serve as the Wrightsville Beach representative.

The five agenda items touched on one another, ranging from Room Occupancy Tax flexibility to Carolina Beach Inlet dredging.

ROT flexibility

There is a push from the beach towns to have more flexibility with half of the second 3 percent of ROT funds.

The idea is to use the money for sand, or beach nourishment.

“We would like to be able to spend the money as we want to,” said Kure Beach Mayor Dean Lambeth.

Carolina Beach Commissioner Steve Shuttleworth said the Carolina Beach budget is a little different than the Kure Beach budget, citing an emphasis on marketing and advertising.

“We’re also being burdened with our inlet,” Shuttleworth said. “… We’re having some budget pressures.”

The deadline, given by Rep. Susi Hamilton, for any resolutions, or draft bills, to be written and submitted to state representatives is about six weeks before the general assembly session convenes on May 14. The deadline to submit a bill is two days after the session starts, Hamilton said.

Rep. Ted Davis said this is going to be something done statewide.

“This is going to be controversial,” Davis said.

Hamilton recommended town officials to talk with the county.

Biggert-Waters

Town manager Tim Owens said the proposed bill to delay implementation does not protect commercial properties or second homes.

“Second homes, we’re full of second homes,” Owens said.

He said real estate would see a huge hit, putting the market in limbo in four years.

With increases ranging from $2,000 to $30,000, Owens said he is unsure how residents would be able to handle the increases.

“They can’t,” Hamilton said, adding that she would be interested in seeing North Carolina join in with other states in a lawsuit. “… It’s killing us.”

Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Massachusetts joined Mississippi in its lawsuit against increased federal flood insurance rates.

Proposed homeowner insurance rate increases

The North Carolina Rate Bureau proposed a 35 percent increase in homeowners insurance that would include most of New Hanover County and other Southeast N.C. counties.

Senator Thom Goolsby said the state needs an insurance commissioner who lives on the coast, understands our issues and sees that it is fair.

“You realize that we get screwed,” Goolsby said. “It’s just plain and simple. There’s no way around it.”

Hamilton said she agrees with Goolsby, and the only reason Wayne Goodwin, state insurance commissioner, came out swinging against the proposed increases is because it impacts other inland counties.

Rep. Rick Catlin said a 35 percent increase at the beach and 35 percent increase in New Hanover County are different, explaining the need to show the difference in the numbers.

“But put a face with the dollars,” Weeks said.

Davis said he could pass along a resolution and supporting documentation to other House members.

“Resolutions, to me, are a very powerful thing,” he said.

Wrightsville Beach has a resolution against homeowners’ insurance increases on its Jan. 23 meeting agenda. Owens said the public should email or mail the Department of Insurance opposing the increases.

Beach town officials aim to hold similar meetings to the Jan. 17 meeting quarterly, with Carolina Beach offering to host the upcoming meeting.

“You’ve given me some definite marching orders,” Davis said, while commending everyone for getting together.

The full story will be printed on Thursday, Jan. 23.

email kelly@luminanews.com

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