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Kure Beach Council candidates discuss infrastructure, plans for the Island Greenway

Candidates for Kure Beach Town Council.
Images come from the NHC Board of Elections Facebook page.
Candidates for Kure Beach Town Council.

WHQR, along with its media partners WECT and Port City Daily, recently held a forum for Kure Beach council candidates, asking them about their top concerns for the town.

Challenger Tracy Mitchell is a six-year resident of the town and chairs the Stormwater Oversight Committee. She's running for one of two seats.

She said the town has several HOAs with stormwater systems.

“The state is moving from state oversight to relinquishing that to the Town of Kure beach oversight. We’re waiting for the state to take the next step,” Mitchell said.

She added that the town will “absolutely not” invest in those private systems. Mitchell also said the residents want that small-town feel, “They want single dwellings. They don't want the high rises. They want the small businesses.”

Challenger Connie Mearkle is the former Vice President of Global Treasury for Lockheed Martin. She moved to the town 11 years ago and serves on the Planning and Zoning and Historical Preservation Commissions.

She said she’s concerned about an infrastructure issue.

“Just recently $55 million was awarded to expand the aquarium in Fort Fisher, and that's going to put a lot of stress on our infrastructure because we have to supply the water, the stormwater, and the sewer, so that's something I would like to address, and I would like to see us have a long term infrastructure plan,” she said.

She also said the town will have to deal with issues surrounding the planning of the Island Greenway.

“But there's a lot of unanswered questions in order to select a route. I know that there are maybe 50 to 60 homes on the west side of Settlers [Lane], which would be impacted. And they are concerned about their privacy and safety, and I understand that. And so maybe the compromise position is, it goes in front of their houses, I don’t know, but I would like to see the cost first to do this,” Mearkle said.

Incumbent Dennis Panicali has lived in the town for 18 years. His work experience is in microbiology. He was recently appointed by the council to fill a vacant seat – and serves on the Shoreline Access and Beach Protection Committee.

He said based on the town’s land use survey last year, residents are in favor of adding walking and biking paths and green space. Like Mearkle, he said the Island Greenway could fill this need.

“But we do not have the information as to cost, as to design, as to environmental factors, as to what will happen to quality of life issues, so all of those things need to be considered before we can decide on a pathway. It will most likely require us to come to some compromise, perhaps alternative paths, a combination of street and in Greenway,” he said.

Another one of Panicali’s concerns is replacing the town’s aging boardwalk, “We as a town council, and I think as a town, have now realized that it is more likely to be simple an eight-foot wide path, and the actual structure to be designed is undergoing evaluation.”

David Heglar has served 16 years on the council. He’s a volunteer firefighter — and he’s lived in the town for 58 years.

In terms of dealing with short-term rentals in the town, he said the council adjusted the water rate so that those high users would pay their way. And that they “rigidly enforce” trash ordinances around these properties, but besides this, “the town has no authority to be able to regulate that. And with the property values, a number of our lots will convert to short-term rentals because that's the highest use,” he said.

One of Heglar’s closing comments at the forum was that he was glad that the race is competitive.

“There have been previous campaigns where it's been unopposed, and I don't think that's good for the town or our citizens,” he said.

Early voting is underway. Election Day is Tuesday, November 7.

Mayoral candidate Allen Oliver is running unopposed.

To hear more from the candidates, view the full forum video below.

Rachel is a graduate of UNCW's Master of Public Administration program, specializing in Urban and Regional Policy and Planning. She also received a Master of Education and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and French Language & Literature from NC State University. She served as WHQR's News Fellow from 2017-2019. Contact her by email: rkeith@whqr.org or on Twitter @RachelKWHQR