Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Municipal Elections 2023: Dennis Panicali runs for Kure Beach Town Council

Dennis Panicali is seeking to retain his seat on Kure Beach Town Council. (Courtesy photo)

KURE BEACH — Dennis Panicali is seeking to retain his seat on Kure Beach Town Council. He was appointed a year and a half ago to serve out the remainder of Joseph Whitley’s term, after he resigned in early 2022.

Panicali has never run for a government position before but was chosen out of three candidates to serve as commissioner in Whitley’s place. He’s up against three other candidates for two positions on the board.

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.

Panicali’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.

Port City Daily (PCD): What makes you qualified for a town commissioner position?

Dennis Panicali (DP): Before seeking the commissioner position, I served as the chairman of the Shore Line Access and Beach Protection Committee for five years. During my tenure, I worked diligently to ensure that our town’s shoreline remained accessible and protected, addressing crucial environmental and recreational concerns.

Additionally, I actively participated in the Town’s Parking Committee and served on various ad hoc committees, gaining a deep understanding of our local governance and the issues that matter most to our residents. My experience in committee leadership and involvement in town affairs has provided me with valuable insights into the challenges our community faces. This experience, combined with my dedication to making our town a better place to live, makes me well-qualified to serve as a town commissioner.

PCD: Why run for town commissioner now?

DP: It has been a privilege to serve on the town council for this last year and a half. Serving as commissioner has been an exceptionally rewarding experience. I have enjoyed my time on council and the opportunity to contribute to setting in place a few new policies that benefit our residents and visitors, passing a balanced budget with no tax increases for residents, and serving as liaison to the fire department, planning and zoning committee, and SLABP committee. I am confident that I can work together with other council members, town staff, and residents to ensure our town’s continued growth, prosperity, and well-being.

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

DP: Currently, three significant issues affecting our town of Kure Beach demand immediate attention, and I am committed to diligently working on these challenges.

Climate Change Preparedness: Kure Beach, like many coastal communities, is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It is essential that we proactively address this issue through resilience planning. I will prioritize securing resources from federal, state, and county sources to maintain and improve our infrastructure. This includes fortifying our stormwater system to mitigate flooding, ensuring the sustainability of our water and sewer systems, and enhancing emergency preparedness.

By proactively improving our infrastructure, educating our residents as to best practices, maintaining strong building codes, and working closely with county and state officials we can better protect our town from the adverse effects of climate change.

Extending the Island Greenway: The extension of the Island Greenway is a project of great importance to our community. It aligns with the vision outlined in our 2022 Land Use Plan, where a majority of citizens have expressed a strong desire for additional green space and designated off-road walking and biking paths. To tackle this issue, I am committed to conducting a thorough assessment of the various possible solutions. I will strive to actively engage the community, seeking their input, and carefully consider the environmental impacts, financial implications, and the long-term quality of life for our residents. My goal is to make well-informed decisions that benefit everyone.

Replacing the Boardwalk along Atlantic Ave: Another pressing concern raised by our residents is the replacement of the worn and damaged boardwalk along Atlantic Avenue. Similar to the Island Greenway project, this endeavor requires extensive evaluation of potential solutions. I will ensure that we gather comprehensive information, involve the community extensively, and consider the environmental, financial, and quality of life implications.

My aim is to provide a safe and enjoyable boardwalk that aligns with the desires of our residents. In addressing these three issues, I will maintain a transparent and collaborative approach, encouraging community engagement at every step. By leveraging available resources and seeking input from our residents, we can work together to make Kure Beach more resilient to climate change and enhance the quality of life for all who call this town home.

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

DP: Balancing the interests of Kure Beach residents with the needs and desires of tourists is a top priority for me. Addressing resident concerns is my highest priority, given that our residents’ property taxes constitute the primary source of funding for vital town services. These services encompass critical aspects of community life, such as our police force, fire department, ocean rescue team, public works, and recreation departments. It is essential to recognize that these very services also play a pivotal role in accommodating the substantial influx of seasonal visitors who flock to Kure Beach.

The well-being of our residents and the quality of life for our visitors are intertwined. We should firmly uphold Kure Beach’s reputation as a family-friendly destination, and we should remain dedicated to creating a secure, peaceful, and enjoyable environment for both our residents and those who visit.

PCD: The extension of the island greenway is a contentious topic in Kure Beach. What action do you think the town should take on the issue and do you see a compromise between differing opinions?

DP: As I mentioned above, I am committed to conducting a thorough assessment of the various possible options and engaging the community to find a reasonable solution to the resident’s wishes to provide the community with safe walking and biking routes.

Finding a compromise between varying opinions can be challenging but is essential for the well-being of our town. This may require innovative solutions, creative route designs, or phased implementations that strike a balance between the need for a greenway and the concerns of those who oppose it. It is important to foster a collaborative spirit where all parties can come together to discuss their concerns, explore potential compromises, and collectively shape a plan that serves the best interests of Kure Beach.

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

DP: When considering the long-term development vision for Kure Beach, it is important to acknowledge the town’s unique character and limitations. With only approximately 200 buildable lots remaining, I anticipate that the overall balance between commercial and residential development will remain relatively stable. Our steadfast adherence to a 35-foot height limit on new constructions since 2006 reflects the commitment to preserving the town’s quaint, low-rise aesthetic, preventing the emergence of large, multi-story structures.

Notably, the town has recently established a Historic District encompassing a four-block area in the heart of our town. This strategic move is aimed at safeguarding and celebrating the essential aspects of Kure Beach’s cultural heritage, history, and architectural identity. It is an assurance that these elements will be protected and upheld for generations to come.

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?

DP: To protect residents, property, and infrastructure in light of the increasing intensity and frequency of storms, as well as sea level rise, I will support our town’s multi-faceted approach.

Enhance Emergency Services: Ensure that our Fire and Police Departments are well-equipped and well-staffed. This includes having the latest technology and training to respond effectively during emergencies.

Public Works Department: Maintain a well-managed public works department that is ready to respond swiftly in the aftermath of storms, ensuring that roads are cleared and utilities are restored promptly.

Education and Preparedness: Continue the excellent work of our emergency manager, Commission David Heglar, in educating our residents. Make sure that all citizens are aware of the steps and precautions they should take in advance of significant storms. This may include evacuation plans, emergency kits, and knowledge of local shelters.

Resilience Planning: Develop comprehensive resilience plans that take into account the potential impacts of climate change. This includes zoning regulations that discourage building in high-risk areas and promote resilient construction techniques.

Collaboration and Regional Efforts: Work closely with neighboring communities and regional authorities to coordinate responses to storms and sea level rise. Collaborative efforts can be more effective in managing and mitigating the effects of climate change.

In summary, I believe the best approach to protecting residents, property, and
infrastructure against the growing threats of climate change includes infrastructure improvement, enhanced emergency services, public education, resilience planning, and regional collaboration. This comprehensive strategy will help us adapt to the challenges posed by climate change while ensuring the safety and well-being of our community.

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