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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Municipal Elections 2023: Alicia Hawley seeks spot on Surf City council

Alicia Hawley is running for Surf City town council, her first-ever election. (Courtesy photo)

SURF CITY — Alicia Hawley is running for election to Surf City’s town council. A small business owner, Hawley has never run for a government position before.

She is seeking one of three seats available on council and is running against five other candidates, including three incumbents.

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

Hawley’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.

One-stop voting in Pender County will be held at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, 801 S. Walker St. in Burgaw from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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 uis required to cast a ballot in 2021; 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): Why run for a council position now?

Alicia Hawley (AH): I have lived and worked in the Surf City area for 20 years and in that time I have gotten to know the people of our community. So much has changed and I have been here and experienced all of the ebs and flows of the growth among other things. There are several large projects in the works currently that I would like to see come to fruition. I also want to make sure that young families, like myself, are in the loop on what is happening in our community and have a voice in these decisions.

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

AH: I see the rapid growth as a major problem. I’m not happy with the process for applying for and approval of the new developments in our community. I would like to see time limits placed on approved plans so that if they are not completed within a set period, they would have to come back to planning and council to determine the next steps and whether the initial plans would be allowed to proceed.

In addition, for multi-homesite communities, part of the approval process should be doing an environmental and traffic impact study. Traffic impact studies should not just be done during peak business and school travel times but also during our tourist peak travel times like Saturdays and Sundays between 9 to 11 a.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. for check in and check outs.

I am a huge advocate of communication and I feel as though this is something that is lacking in our current local government. For instance, currently our council meeting times are 4:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month and the workshop is at 9 a.m. on the third Friday. I would like to see these meetings moved to 5:30 or 6 p.m. so that working members of our community have the ability to attend these meetings and voice their concerns.

Also, I would love to see a town hall type of meeting hosted quarterly where council members, mayor and staff are available to have an open discussion of predetermined subject manner. The open comments at meetings are typically not responded to at the meetings and it makes it difficult for people to get answers to their questions and concerns.

Last, I do have issues with the process of appointments in the event a member has to step down from their position. This in the past few years has resulted in several elected positions being determined by the council and not the people. While I understand the need to fill a vacancy so that decisions can continue to be made and work proceed, I would like to see a set precedent for a special election to be held in the event that an elected seat appointment is to last more than six months. We have four-year terms for these positions therefore depending on the time the person is appointed they could potentially hold that seat for several years. A lot can happen in that time and the people should get to decide who that person should be.

PCD: In the past the town has turned down development applications for lack of sewer capacity. How do you plan to balance needed growth with adequate infrastructure as the town continues to attract more residents?

AH: The town was recently awarded $20 million to go toward enhancing our wastewater treatment capabilities, which will eventually result in some of these pending new developments to begin construction. They are actually allowing people to propose plans that are getting approved but cannot start until the sewer capacity is available. I personally do not like this approach. There is a lot of infrastructure, not just sewer, that the town and county need to catch up on prior to allowing new developments.

As mentioned above I would also like to see traffic impact studies as a requirement for the approval of large developments. If there is a substantial effect on travel I think it should be up to the developers to determine how to find a reasonable solution or not get approved. I know that the town does not control the schools but at some point someone in our area needs to take our rapid growth into consideration as far as how it is affecting things that are also out of our local governments control.

PCD: The beach town is working through the process of federal beach renourishment. Do you agree with spending the nearly $20 million needed for the project? Do you think a different approach should have been taken?

AH: I do agree with this project and I think our town has done a good job getting the funding for it without raising our taxes to do so. Understanding that Surf City has several homes that are on the island and some of them are permanent residences, and some are rental income properties this project will help to protect not just them but also the second and third row homes as well from washouts and other potential storm related issues.

After Florence I do think that we need some additional safeguards and this is a big one. The unfortunate downside is that this is a project that has had to take some pauses, which were out of our town’s control and I’m sure that resulted in higher costs along the way. They have however been diligent to push toward getting the working part going and I am excited to see this project completed and see what we can work on next.

PCD: Surf City is in the midst of updating its zoning ordinances. What changes do you think need to be made, if any, and why?

AH: A big part of what has pushed our rapid influx of developments is approving additional phases of communities. Then if we have a change in the market the developers never begin those phases. They are then sold to another developer at a later date when it is financially beneficial to build again, but we are not always in a position to need that kind of growth at that time. Being that these plans have already been approved the town is limited to ways to stop them at this point.

As discussed above I would like to see time limits on completion of large and phased developments. I would also like to see some updates to the required second entrance and exit for new developments. Again, these are often communities that were initially a phase of an existing community and they are utilizing easements that are in the original land plan. We are now forcing older communities to give access to a second community that has no financial obligation to assist with repairs and maintenance on the first community’s property specifically roads. A way to help would be to allow gates that would make these connecting streets for emergency use only but the town currently does not allow for any kind of gates.

PCD: The town is working on an engineering study to address stormwater issues on the island. What do you think should be done to mitigate flooding?

AH: I have spoken with the town and they are doing a great job to use some grant funding currently to try two different options for stormwater mitigation. They are then planning to determine how well each works and then add additional sites to other areas on the island. We are now a very populated island and we all need the ability to get back and forth. Pending the success of these plans I can assure you as a person who lives on the island this will be top priority for me to see implemented and resolved.

PCD: There were unfortunately a few drownings along Surf City’s beaches this past year but no lifeguards. Do you think Surf City should consider funding lifeguards during summer months or other water safety programs to increase protection for beachgoers?

AH: While I would love to see lifeguards I’m not sure financially we are at a point that we can do that for our town. The fire chief is in the process of working with a non-profit to add informational flags and lifesaving floatation devices to each beach access. I have already reached out with my support in this and offered any help that I can.

I would also like to see informational signs on each beach access that discuss risk and how to help in the event of a drowning. Often times it is not the person that appears to initially be in distress that we end up losing the person who goes out to try to save them.

My mother was a certified lifeguard and infant swim coach, so water safety is something that has always been discussed in my house. I think working to inform people on what to do and what not to do is a more successful way to help save lives in our community right now. We do have a great Ocean Rescue division of the fire department currently, and if we need to put additional funding into adding additional members of the fire department and equipment to keeping our waters safe that is something I could get behind right now.

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