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SUNSET BEACH—It was sardine-room-only as residents packed a town meeting room Tuesday to address agenda issues at a town council workshop.
Foremost were proposed changes to the pets-on-strand ordinance.
A half-dozen residents urged council to leave the ordinance as is, except for shortening dogs’ leashes on the beach to 10 feet. The proposal will be brought to the next council meeting April 1.
Island resident Richard Hilderman said the only problem he sees are too-long leashes of 20 to 30 feet.
“I walk my dog on the beach and very rarely have I had to pick up somebody else’s dog doo-doo on the beach,” Hilderman said, adding it’s more like he has to “pick up crap left by other human beings.”
Island resident John Corbett said he strongly opposes any proposed ban not to allow dogs on the beach during the peak season between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when daytime hours are already regulated.
“So please don’t add another layer of enforcement on something that’s already there,” he said.
More island residents spoke as well.
“I’m here to speak on behalf of our voiceless friends and their dogs,” said Sunset Beach resident Nina Marable. “To many of us pets are our family members. Please don’t ban our family members from the beach.”
Town councilwoman Carol Scott said she received a number of phone calls from people begging to leave the ordinance the way it is except for shortening leashes.
“Without exception, nobody wants to eliminate dogs from Memorial Day to Labor Day,” she said.
In response to why proposed amendments were on the agenda, town councilman Lou DeVita said they had been discussed at a beach-patrol debriefing after the summer months.
“Leash lengths were a problem, and other issues brought to council,” DeVita said. “We decided we needed to take a look at this. Unless you’re out there 24/7, enforcement is impossible. No matter what we do with the ordinance, our beach-patrol hours are seasonal.”
Business owners hoping to launch a future merchants association asked for the town board’s consideration regarding dispersal of accommodations or occupancy tax.
Group members, including Dave Nelson, Ron Watts and Marc Kaplan, gave a slide presentation outlining annual trends in occupancy tax revenues, including 1 percent collected by the county for tourism promotion and 5 percent for tourism and beach re-nourishment.
“Unfortunately, the trend is not our friend, particularly in Sunset Beach,” Watts said.
He urged the board to handle the money the way it was intended, for use by a tourism development authority or “this group—we’re ready to go,” Watts said.
According to the group, Sunset Beach received $773,742 in occupancy tax in 2011-2012. According to House Bill 859 enacted by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1997, 3 percent of revenues is to be used to promote travel and tourism and tourism-related purposes and 2 percent is to be used for beach re-nourishment.
Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.