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SUNSET BEACH — Sunset Beach Town Council has approved adoption of a speed-limit reduction ordinance on Sunset Boulevard North at the mainland entrance to the Intracoastal Waterway high-rise bridge.
Approval came at council’s monthly workshop Jan. 21.
The measure repeals a 45-mph speed limit on Sunset Boulevard North from the bridge to the N.C. 179/904 intersection. It now specifies a 45-mph speed limit on the boulevard “from 1,500 feet north of Station Trail” to the N.C. 179/904 intersection.
All speed limits in the town are 35 mph in the town unless otherwise posted.
The gist of the action is it changes the speed limit from 45 to 35 mph for about a block from the bridge entrance to Sea Trail’s east entrance, Sunset Beach Mayor Ron Watts said.
The measure was requested by the North Carolina Department of Transportation to reduce the speed coming in and out of the town’s future roundabout, Watts said.
Town councilwoman Carol Scott said at the workshop the only thing she is going to be interested in seeing are the effects of low-speed vehicles going over the high-rise bridge and on the beach community.
“I realize this thing is going to get passed, but it does create a concern for me of the openness of the town for low-speed vehicles and the impact on the town and beach as they struggle to get over the bridge,” Scott said prior to the vote favoring the change.
Following discussion, council indicates it favors moving ahead with the bid process on the town roundabout.
Town building inspections director Sandy Wood said as it gets closer to the busy time of beach season, the town can delay the work but will still have to pay the $170,000 required by the North Carolina Department of Transportation in getting engineering plans, surveying and putting the project out to bid.
It the project is stopped, the town would “have to go back to the drawing board and go through all of the studies to see if we would even get to have a stoplight again,” Wood said. “It all depends on funding.”
Watts said the board didn’t have make a decision Tuesday but could wait until bids are opened next week.
“Don’t forget (DOT) already has our money,” Scott said.
Watts said the town is committed to the project unless a majority of council wants to change course.
Another MS bicycle ride approved
Town officials have also given the go-ahead for another MS bicycle ride this year at Sunset Beach.
At Tuesday’s town council workshop, Jeff Viscount with Bike MS outlined plans for the Beach or Bust Bicycle Ride planned for Sept. 20-21 that will end in Sunset Beach as it has for the past four years.
Viscount said the ride is in addition to the Bike MS: Breakaway to the Beach ride that will begin and end in Sea Trail on Oct. 18-19.
He said the idea of riding around in circles was disappointing to seasoned riders who prefer the epic, 200-plus-mile.
“There was a huge outcry from people who still want to support MS,” he said. “They want to do it with a more epic ride, to feel like they’re doing something really hard to help somebody that really needs help.”
The September ride will begin in Charlotte with an overnight stop in Florence, S.C., before ending on Sunday in Sunset Beach. Viscount said they’re limiting this ride to 200 riders as a smaller “scaled-down” event that he thinks can be doubled next year. He said they’re also requiring participants to raise at least $500.
Plans call for the ride to conclude at the public parking area at the Sunset Beach island gazebo where a dining tent will be set up.
Registration for the ride opened a week and a half ago and is already half full, Viscount said.
He described the ride as a fundraising event with proceeds going to the MS Society. He said they are also asking Sunset Beach to recommend a local grassroots charity that could benefit from some of the proceeds.
“Lots of riders are already making plans to spend Sunday night in Sunset Beach,” Viscount said.
Scott said she’s concerned about setting a precedent by blocking off the gazebo lot at the conclusion of the September ride.
Fellow council member Lou De Vita said it’s a good precedent if the use is during the off-season.
“If we want to expand tourism in the off-season, outside the box, then we’ve got to do this,” he said.
As council mulls assorted beach rules, Dan Johnston of the Sunset Beach Surf Club asked members to reconsider surfing rules to make the beach more enjoyable for everyone. This includes a proposal that there be no restriction on surfing when the Sunset Beach Fishing Pier closes for the winter and that fines be increased to $75.
“Basically, we’re asking for equal opportunity for all watercraft that have restrictions in the pier area,” Johnston said.
Council indicated it favors installation of a rope fence on Sunset Boulevard South.
Scott said that “seems to be the theme the town is using to keep vehicles away from certain areas without use of ugly signs.”
She worries that as tourist season heats up, “we’ll see cars doing what they did last year, which is parking wherever the hell they want to park.”
Sunset Beach Mayor Ron Watts also suggested talking with business owners about possibly relocating newspaper boxes across the street as an incentive for cars to park on the right side while its occupants are reading newspapers.
Scott said permission will have to be requested from NCDOT.
Laura Lewis is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email email@example.com.