Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Municipal Elections 2023: Lynn Barbee seeks re-election as Carolina Beach mayor

Lynn Barbee is running for re-election since becoming CB mayor in 2021. (Courtesy photo)

CAROLINA BEACH — Lynn Barbee is the incumbent running for mayor in Carolina Beach. Barbee first got into politics in 2019 when he served on town council before being elected to mayor in 2021.

Barbee — who is unaffiliated — is up against three other candidates: Michelle Alberda, Chad Kirk and Tyler McDowell.

PCD asked candidates to address issues pertinent to their municipalities, covering issues such as balancing growth and infrastructure, traffic and tourism, parking and climate change impacts.

Barbee’s answers are included in full; responses are edited only for grammar, spelling and clarity.

The paywall has been dropped on candidate questionnaires to help voters make informed decisions ahead of Election Day.

To prepare, here are a few dates for readers to keep in mind:

  • Absentee ballots can be requested through Oct. 31 and must be returned Nov. 7 (or post-marked as such).
  • Registration to vote will be open until Oct. 13; afterward, according to the state board of elections, same-day registration will be available only during one-stop early voting.
  • Early voting begins Oct. 19 and remains open through Nov. 4 (3 p.m.).
  • Election Day polls open Nov. 7, 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

To vote early in New Hanover County, visit the Northeast Library (1241 Military Cutoff Road). From Oct. 28 to Nov. 4, voters can also go to CFCC Health Sciences and Learning Center (415 Second St.), Carolina Beach Town Hall (1121 Lake Park Blvd.) and the NHC Senior Center (2222 S. College Road).

Once early voting closes, voters will need to go to the location listed on their voter registration card, or verified here.

To see a sample ballot for the upcoming election, fill in voter registration info here.

A photo ID is required to cast a ballot in 2023; more information can be found on the state board of elections website.

The candidate’s opinions and statements are not a reflection of Port City Daily.

PCD: Why re-run for mayor now?

LB: As the incumbent, I see the progress we have made in the last four years. We now have a strategic plan and a 25-year infrastructure plan. I want to see those implemented.

PCD: Name three issues you think are most affecting the town currently and describe how you would work toward tackling them.

LB: Infrastructure renewal is our top priority. I have worked to create a 25-year infrastructure plan and financial model to achieve the necessary $70-million-plus improvements. 

Secondly, as any beach mayor will tell you, we want our visitors to go home happy and healthy. Carolina Beach has significant challenges in bicycle and pedestrian safety. I want to complete the projects we have started. The Ocean Boulevard sidewalk, the Lake Park sidewalk, the St. Joseph Multi-use path, and the pedestrian improvements at Hamlet Avenue and St Joseph Street.

Lastly, but most importantly, I am very focused on resident quality-of-life initiatives. I want to complete the Lake Park playground, the Boardwalk restrooms, and the Skate Park expansion.

PCD: Where do you see the balance of accommodating tourists and other locals outside Carolina Beach and ensuring island residents’ concerns are addressed? 

LB: My slogan is: “A great place to live is a great place to visit.” The residents deserve a high quality of life for the investment they have made. We must consider them first. 

However, I know that the tourism trends today are focused on the same goals.  We can easily do both. If we focus on making Carolina Beach a unique and rewarding place to live, tourism will boom.

PCD: What is your long-term vision for parking and transportation on Carolina Beach? How would you approach a rate increase? How will you tackle reducing traffic on the island or addressing infrastructure needs?

LB: Parking in beach towns is a difficult problem across the country and around the world. Carolina Beach has had a parking shortage since the 1920s. Financially, the cost to procure land and build parking structures that must recover their cost in a short season is not a viable model.

No matter where you are within our town limits, you are within 2 miles of every amenity. I will continue to support bike and pedestrian access and push to be less car centric. 

The key to reducing traffic is tied directly to better bike and pedestrian access. More parking means more traffic.

Parking rate increases are tied to cost. As the cost to provide the services increase, parking rates will need to increase to pay for those services.

I will continue to support WAVE transit’s micro-transit service. WAVE is another inexpensive mode without the traffic and parking congestion.

PCD: Off-island residents have asked for a parking pass option, which the town agreed to allowing a seven-day pass for $100 last year. Do you support offering off-island residents season passes? Why or why not?

LB: I do not support non-resident passes. The population growth rate in New Hanover County is very high and we don’t have the spaces to support passes. The last year we sold passes to non-residents we oversold every space by a 10:1 ratio. There is a point of diminishing returns where there will be no available spaces, revenues will not cover expenses and the program becomes unsustainable.

I support a pay-for-use model. Most municipalities in our region do not offer non-resident passes (Wrightsville, Wilmington) for the reasons I have mentioned. With the current population trends, we may eventually need to limit resident parking passes. I can’t in good conscience limit residents while opening to non-residents. Over 50% of the parking spaces in our Downtown Business district are privately owned and operated; they do not offer a pass option and the town can’t require them.

PCD: What is your long-term vision for development in Carolina Beach? Are there any types, residential or otherwise, you think will not fit in Carolina Beach? 

LB: Carolina Beach is mostly built out. Our zoning map and structure have been set for us by our predecessors. The development picture will depend on the wishes of the citizens and the investors who fund the projects. The majority of what can be built is already determined in the zoning code and property owners have the right to build to those requirements. 

There will be a few opportunities that the elected officials can influence via the conditional zoning process. They will be primarily in our downtown business district.  It is going to require some flexibility by all parties involved. The developers may not be able to build a big as they want due to the residents’ desire to keep the small-town feel, but residents may have to flex some to make the project profitable for the investor. 

As mayor, I take each of these projects one at a time as they arise and listen to both sides. In almost every case we can find a suitable middle ground.

PCD: As evidence shows, climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of storms and hurricanes, along with sea level rise. What should the town do to protect residents, property and infrastructure?

LB: The town must continue the strong partnership with our federal and state agency partners to ensure the long-term viability of our Coastal Storm Damage Reduction projects. We must closely monitor and influence regulations that will need to change to accommodate the environmental changes. 

PCD: With a $70-million wish list of projects, do you support having to impose annual rate increases on utilities, for residents to pay for future infrastructure needs?

LB: Yes. We recently completed a financial analysis performed by a reputable firm well-versed in municipal finance. The Town of Carolina Beach operates our utilities within an Enterprise services fund. The fund must be self-sustaining. I will say again, the pay-for-use model works best. 

I do not support other structures like one-time assessments or inflating the property tax. Keeping the funds within the enterprise fund will ensure that the money is spent on infrastructure and does not get diverted to other projects.


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