Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Municipal Elections 2023: Terri Cartner running for Oak Island Town Council

Terri Cartner is running for a spot on the Oak Island Town Council; it’s her first time seeking an elected position. (Courtesy photo)

OAK ISLAND — Terri Cartner is running for a spot on the Oak Island Town Council; it’s her first time seeking an elected position.

Cartner is a retired director of projects, property and business enterprise with UNC Greensboro and a part-time, remote university property officer at Western Carolina University. She is up against six candidates — Bob Ciullo, Bill Craft, Niki Cutler, Mark Dolak Jr., Durral Gilbert and Randy Moffit — running for three open seats on the dais.

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

Cartner’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.

In Brunswick County, voters can cast ballots early at the Brunswick County Cooperative Extension (in lieu of the Board of Elections) at 25 Referendum Drive, Building N, in Bolivia.

Once early voting closes, voters will need to go to the location listed on their registration cards, 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. 

Port City Daily (PCD): Have you ever run for a government position before? If so, give us details: What, when, where, outcome? If not, what makes you qualified for mayor or a town council position?

Terri Cartner (TC): Oak Island Town Council needs leadership and real-world experience that is focused on preserving community and not continuing down the road to becoming a commodity. I’ve gained those leadership and experience skills
throughout my entire career and years of volunteer service.

I bring to the table a wealth of knowledge, including business enterprise management, budgets, public-private partnerships, real estate, contracts, capital planning, and knowledge of ordinances and zoning. I believe in working collegially to achieve shared goals. I find great value in citizen input. I believe in proactive
transparency by the town for all citizens. I am self-disciplined, highly professional
with the highest ethical standards, and sound judgement.

I have worked extensively with city and county governments, so I know how municipalities can and should work to the benefit of the people they serve. I am well qualified and committed to continuing to work hard for the people of Oak Island.

PCD: Why run for town council now?

TC: I genuinely love Oak Island and its people. In 2023, our town is at a critical crossroads. We’re in the midst of explosive growth and we don’t have a plan for managing that growth or preparing for the future. This election will determine
what becomes of Oak Island. Will we elect candidates, like me, who will represent the people and work to protect our residential community and small, local businesses? Or will we elect candidates who cater to special interests and have no qualms about using Oak Island as a commodity for their benefit?

It is a misnomer to believe there is nothing to fix in Oak Island, that nothing is broken; we need earnest course corrections and we need to start with this election.

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

TC: Uncontrolled Growth — I will start by collaborating with residents and business owners to develop a shared vision to guide us. I will ask for council support for our Planning Board in getting our development ordinances quickly tightened to provide the protections that are putting our town at risk every day. I will ask council to support a plan for writing a sound economic development plan by the town’s economic development coordinator, the new business advisory group, and other stakeholders that support us as a community and not a commodity.

Protection of Our Natural Resources — Again, I encourage and support the planning board in developing a strong vegetation ordinance and other ordinance and zoning measures in place that stop development on wetlands and fragile ecosystem areas. I’ll ask the town and volunteer groups to partner in implementing educational information for developers and residents about the value our trees and natural resources provide. I will support the implementation of the long-needed Beach Management Plan and insist we continue to research and develop sound measures to stem both beachfront and ICW erosion.

Town Efficiency in Operations — Immediately, I’ll seek to obtain an independent municipal operations audit to determine the town’s operational health and establish a benchmark for how town capital assets grow. Implement cross-training methods where feasible. I’ll push to change the charter to require the town manager to live within town limits. I’ll ask for review, revisions, and rebidding of long-existing contracts to ensure competitive pricing and integrity of services. Ensure town has well-documented standard operating procedures. Develop in-house capital replacement schedules for all our capital investments that are town-driven and not vendor-driven.

PCD: What is your long-term vision for development in Oak Island? What is lacking and how would you address it?

TC: Our vision should be collective with input from all citizens and business owners, and created in conjunction with a revised comprehensive land use plan.

My long-term vision, which I’ve also heard repeatedly from citizens, is that we want to stop uncontrolled growth. I want us to preserve and protect the small, family-oriented, neighborhood community that we are and not become a tourist-oriented commodity with out-of-scale development, and houses and businesses that don’t fit into the fabric of our community.

I want to see us develop a sound economic development plan and help revitalize our two downtown districts, making those areas more pedestrian-friendly. To begin to achieve a vision, we must work to strengthen our ordinances and zoning to remove loopholes. We must actively work to protect our trees and natural habitats, as well.

PCD: Are there any types of development, residential or otherwise, you think will not fit in OKI?

TC: The island proper is not the place for commercially operated mega-houses. Even though we currently have a few, I believe that 4,000 square feet is an appropriate maximum.

We should also limit commercial growth, prohibiting anything that is out-of-scale with our small and locally owned and operated businesses. Currently, all of the land on the mainland portion of the town is zoned C-LD, commercial low density. I do not believe this is an appropriate zoning designation because we have many residential neighborhoods on the mainland.

I will advocate for a master plan study to determine appropriate places and uses for the mainland, particularly to protect current and future residential areas.

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

TC: Other than pushing a little sand after some of our hurricanes, Oak Island has not had a comprehensive, full-scale beach management plan since at least 2001. We have a project slated to begin in 2024 for a $40-million renourishment plan. This will go a long way toward restoring our sand; however, this can’t be a one-and-done project.

We need to be investigating proactive ways to stem beachfront erosion by looking at hardened structures like jetties or terminal groins. While these measures are costly, I believe they will reduce the amount of ongoing sand we need for replenishment and thereby reduce the on-going maintenance costs. Our beachfront is not our only waterway; we also have the ICW and Davis Canal. We need a study and a proactive plan to start minimizing the erosion there, as well.

We should partner with organizations such as the N.C. Coastal Foundation to encourage the use of living shorelines rather than bulkheads.

PCD: What are your views on ending the Dosher Memorial Hospital tax? Do you think just Oak Island should be removed or the entire tax be repealed? Do you have any concerns that removing the tax funding will jeopardize the hospital’s current operations?

TC: As a general rule, I will always support any measures to lower the tax burden on Oak Island citizens. However, in this case, I’m concerned that town council made a knee-jerk reaction and didn’t do its due diligence. Certainly, a conversation with the Dosher Hospital Board of Directors should have taken place, as well as conversations with the Brunswick County Commissioners. Oak Island tends to operate within a silo, rarely reaching out to others for collegial conversations before actions are taken.

Since Oak Island isn’t the only municipality in the Smithville Township, I would recommend that the other municipalities be included in the larger conversation. It does seem the hospital board took advantage of the increased property revaluations to automatically increase their revenue from the tax. We need to encourage them to be more community-minded and not take advantage of the “free money.” No one wants to pay any more taxes than they have to, I personally feel the same way.

We should keep in mind that the Dosher tax is not just about a money issue; it is also a public health issue. Moving forward, I will advocate for Oak Island to have the appropriate conversations and gather all pertinent information so the best decision can be made.

PCD: Do you agree with the council’s recent decision to create paid parking? What do you think the town should use the revenue for, aside from covering parking expenses?

TC: I do agree with council’s decision to create paid parking. First, we were one of the only remaining beaches to not be charging for parking. There were significant issues with vehicles parked everywhere, including rights-of-way and the front yards of property owners. We needed a plan to bring order to the process of managing the tourists and day-tripper groups using our beach. There were some start-up glitches, as you would expect with any new program.

I look forward to the town’s review of the first season and hope the vendor will continue to improve on their services. I will strongly advocate holding resident parking rates at a minimum or even taking them to no charge. The $1.2 million the town received as a benefit of the parking program’s first year should be used in a way to reduce the tax burden of citizens in the form of reducing the resident’s sand tax, to go in a fund for on-going beach management, or providing amenities that don’t have to come from the ad valorem tax revenues.

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