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Capacity crowd turns out to oppose at-large voting in Carolina Shores

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

CAROLINA SHORES—A spillover crowd, most of them from the town’s District 1 consisting of the Village at Calabash, turned out for a public hearing Monday night to protest town commissioners’ plan to do away with its two voting districts and adopt at-large voting.

Despite that, commissioners unanimously approved the plan at their monthly meeting Tuesday.

Carolina Shores Mayor Stephen Selby said at the start of the hearing the issue involves a proposed charter amendment to eliminate District 1 and 2 and adopt at-large voting. He also noted the issue has previously been discussed at earlier town meetings.

Each of the town’s five elected commissioners then spoke out in support of the change.

Town commissioner Gere Dale said he thinks an undercurrent of resentment still exists among Village residents since their community was involuntarily annexed by the town in 2003, which spurred the creation of District 1 to ensure them a seat on the commission.

Though Dale opposed the annexation, he said it’s time to proceed as a united town.

“That was four years ago, ladies and gentlemen, a fait accompli,” he said. “We’ve got to move on as a town.”

“We need to do one district,” commissioner Jack Csernecky added. “We need to have at-large to bring us together again.”

Commissioner John Russo said there should be equal opportunity for everyone in the whole town to be able to pick and choose who they want.

“This is a democratic society,” he said. “We don’t need the separation.”

Commissioner Tom Puls said even though he lives in District 1, his responsibility is to the town.

“It is the town that got me elected,” he said. “The amount of votes that I got were not supported by the Village.”

The district, he said, has outlived its usefulness.

“We were the only subdivision in the town of Carolina Shores,” he said. “Now there are five additional subdivisions. The people of Carolina Shores can make up their minds when election time comes, who they want to vote for based on candidates’ night, and it doesn’t matter where the candidate lives. I’m just trying to bring this community together as one, and this is the place to start.”

Village resident Anne Marie Brennan said she’s concerned about her community not having a separate voting district.

“My concern is, what’s the rush now?” she asked.

Bill Brennan, president of the Village’s property owners’ association, said residents fought to keep their seat “because we felt we needed it. We felt we needed protection. We felt were looked upon as second-class citizens by the town. I really feel in a lot of cases that’s true.”

He said it has took months for the community to get a $75 streetlight.

“The second issue is cleaning the ditches,” he said. “Our community is older. The roads are shot. The town knew that when we were annexed.”

Village resident Dolores Galiano became emotional when she spoke.

“What’s the rush?” she asked commissioners. “Microsoft just gave up a hostile takeover of Yahoo! Why don’t you guys do the same?”

Village resident Ollie Guthrie complained he sees workers picking up trash in Carolina Shores proper but never sees them in the Village.

He recommended the town divide its growing array of communities between the two districts instead of doing away with them.

Former commissioner John Manning drew applause when he said he thinks the town should keep the two districts.

Village resident Walter Goodenough said the Village can ill afford to lose its position on the commission.

“To entertain [that] is outrageous,” he said. “Maybe it’s time to dissolve our relationship. Let us go. We never wanted to be part of your town.”