Carolina Beach puts change to traffic patterns on hold

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A blocked off side street between Canal Drive and Carolina Beach Avenue North in Carolina Beach after a recent storm. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
A blocked off side street between Canal Drive and Carolina Beach Avenue North in Carolina Beach after a recent storm. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

During their monthly meeting on Tuesday night, Carolina Beach Town Council heard options on alternate traffic patterns for the town’s north end but decided not to take any action.

The potential changes would occur on 16 side streets that run between Canal Drive and Carolina Beach Avenue North, the two main north-south roads that lie between Myrtle Grove Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Technically, a previous town council approved an amendment in February 2003 to make all the streets one-way in an alternating pattern, but for some reason that change was never implemented. Currently all the streets, which are all about 20 to 24 feet wide, are open to two-way traffic and have parking on both sides. Officials are concerned that the narrow widths of the streets are a hindrance to public safety and cause local traffic problems.

Councilmembers were presented with three alternatives. One option would be to keep all the streets two-way and eliminate all on-street parking. The second would be to eliminate all on-street parking but make all the streets one-way in an alternating pattern. The third would be to adopt the one-way street traffic pattern but designate 42 metered parking spaces total on certain side streets, with the most on Oyster Shell Lane (eight spaces) and Starfish Lane (seven spaces).

While the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, which reviewed this issue before sending it to council, recommended adopting the second choice, councilmembers remained unsure about making the streets one-way. The biggest concern was public safety, both in terms of being able to fit fire trucks and ambulances on small streets when cars are double parked, and also for residents who need to evacuate the area when the streets flood, which happens often during high tides.

“When you say ‘one-way street,’ people start cringing in this town,” said Mayor Pro-Tem LeAnn Pierce. “I think if we eliminate the parking, there’s no reason it can’t be a two-way street.”

“Make it a two-way street and no parking,” said Councilmember Steve Shuttleworth. “Give them a ticket.”

Mayor Dan Wilcox echoed that sentiment, but also raised concerns about residents who don’t have a driveway or designated place to park their vehicles.

“It’s not about safety versus parking. Safety is a must,” Wilcox said. “My concern would be the handful of residents that have absolutely zero parking.”

Councilmembers have asked the town’s staff to find out how many residents would be affected if they eliminated street parking, among other issues of concern. No date has been set for when they will revisit the issue, but officials agreed that a decision should be made before the next tourist season begins.