Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Candidate profile: Pat Batleman, Leland Town Council

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of candidate profiles for council and mayoral candidates in Wilmington, Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach, Leland, Belville and Navassa. Candidates’ responses have not been edited. Click here or visit our “2013 Municipal Elections” tab for more information about candidates and the upcoming municipal elections on Nov. 5.

Please describe any previous elected or appointed office in which you have served that is relevant to your candidacy.

I am completing a 4 year term on the Leland Town Council.  I also serve as the Town of Leland representative on the Wilmington Urban Metropolitan Planning Organization – Transportation Advisory Committee.

What goals or priorities do you want Leland to have as the North Brunswick area continues to grow?

I would like to continue to pursue a sensible, cost efficient transportation network for North Brunswick County and the Wilmington metropolitan region.  Leland is growing rapidly, and I am pleased to say we have approved a draft Connector Street Plan to enable us to keep up with the connectivity required to ease traffic flow among our widespread subdivisions.  With respect to regional traffic issues, since the elimination of the preferred Leland corridor for a potential fourth crossing of the Cape Fear River, my priorities now are to encourage Council to work with the WMPO-NCDOT and State Transportation officials to pursue the replacement of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge earlier than 2040, the timeframe that has been suggested.  I am also encouraging Council to support the “EPA” proposed Cape Fear River Crossing plan for traffic flow improvement from the Port of Wilmington to connect with Rt. 421 and the I-140 Bypass in Brunswick County.  This option presents the least environmentally intrusive, most efficient, and most economically sound solution.  For the future, my “wish list” includes planning for a passenger rail connection between Wilmington and Raleigh.  This would be a huge boon to both areas!  I also want to see Leland continue pursuing the addition of bike/pedestrian and multi-use paths throughout the town.

Next, I would like to implement a business development plan by designating a specific corridor where we can assist new businesses who wish to establish a presence in Leland.  My vision is to spearhead a proactive move to market our town by approaching businesses which are adding facilities in the Raleigh-Durham and the Charlotte areas and calling attention to Leland by providing them with a first-class web site and presentation developed to that end.

Most importantly, I will do whatever I can to defend our town and her citizens from the potential of unfair, budget-damaging reductions to the long-time Brunswick County method of distributing sales tax revenues based on population.  It is inconceivable that this study is taking place when it is clear that even a hybrid of ad valorem and sales tax revenues would severely impact the budgets of 15 of the 19 municipalities in the County. 

With the completion of the westernmost leg of the Interstate 140 Wilmington Bypass, what needs to be done for Leland to take full advantage of the additional highway?  How do you see the bypass, once completed, affecting Leland? 

In the case of the westernmost leg of I-140, that phase will be as effective for Leland as where it currently terminates; noteworthy advantages will take shape with the completion of the sum of its parts for the entire bypass. That will allow Leland to take full advantage of the new resources the highway will bring.  While tourist traffic may not pass through Leland as much as before, I expect more residential and commercial development. More retail, restaurants, professional businesses and educational opportunities will be attracted to the area as our population grows.  Our industrial parks will begin to attract new tenants and produce more job opportunities with an improved transportation network (in combination with rail availability) efficiently connecting to Rts. 74-76 and to Rt. 40.

How should the area prepare for growth?

A strategy that will keep us on track with our Flex Code zoning, our downtown Gateway District, and creation of an aggressive plan to attract more retail, commercial and professional businesses is how we should continue to prepare for growth. The street design manual needs to be updated to take into consideration community parking needs, speed limits, traffic calming measures and bicycle access.  Town staff is currently engaged in that project process.  At the same time, I am hoping we maintain a “small town” atmosphere in our downtown corridor (Village Road) to keep Leland from becoming a large municipality that has no personality. This is an important goal we can work towards embracing and respecting the founders of our town while at the same time giving new residents a sense of place…of hometown.

Council has to be extremely careful and thoughtful as we move ahead.  We will soon be in the big leagues, and this is why residents need the most dedicated and best talented people to serve as council members.  Voters need to think about in whose hands this delicate, serious task is entrusted. There is no room on Council for slackers or chameleons.

How can Leland, Belville and Navassa work better together as neighbors?  Are there any areas of overlap or holes in the three towns’ services that you see as needing to be addressed?

In 2011, the Town of Leland extended to the Town of Belville, the opportunity to begin substantive discussions on a merger of the towns.  An in depth study was conducted by Leland staff that resulted in a presentation to members of the Belville Board, most of whom were at least willing to listen, that attempted to address all aspects of a merger, from the make-up of an inclusive Council membership — to a graduated property tax increase over a multi-year period to Leland’s current rate — to a review of all the amenities and services Belville would gain for her 2000 residents such as utilities maintenance, road maintenance, recycling, and Police protection — to name a few.  Regrettably, this gesture was turned down with the primary reason being Belville did not want to go from a tax rate of 7 cents per $100 valuation to anything higher, despite gaining more services and amenities and a unity of purpose.  There was a desire to retain their autonomy as well.  A similar discussion has not been held with Navassa, and one is not planned at this time.  Belville and Navassa do use Leland’s Inspections Department for which a fee is charged as well as Animal Control services.  Some police service for Belville has been and is provided when needed but at a cost to Leland only.  Belville residents use Town of Leland recreation facilities and programs at no charge.  As for working better as neighbors, we are all friendly with one another and willing to help when advisable.  For example, a few months ago, we voted in favor of approving an award from the Transportation Advisory Committee of the WMPO providing STP-DA Funds for a bike-ped route in Navassa.  We also voted to approve a WMPO resolution to support the Belville Riverwalk project.  It is our position that if all three communities would unite into one, we would collectively have a very strong presence in North Brunswick County that would enable us to achieve far more benefits for all our residents from the State and County. Perhaps one day this strength of purpose will unite us all.  

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