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SHALLOTTE—Some local business owners want the town’s board of aldermen to show more “speed and enthusiasm” about re-opening portions of Holden Beach Road.
At the board of aldermen’s regular December meeting, the board began a discussion but recessed until Dec. 15 to host a workshop focused on finding a more immediate solution to business owners’ needs on Business 130.
At the Dec. 6 meeting, the board voted to ask the North Carolina Department of Transportation to conduct a feasibility study to potentially re-open a portion of Holden Beach Road that was closed by the Smith Avenue Extension. The board has already request NCDOT install signage notifying drivers of Business 130.
During the December meeting, board members discussed a variety of ideas for drawing attention to businesses on the north end of town including installing “Welcome to Shallotte” signs and relaxing off-premise sign permitting. The board voted to conduct a workshop with business owners.
During the Dec. 15 workshop, less than 10 of the alleged 60 plus members of the North Shallotte Business Members Association were in attendance.
Albert Hughes, town administrator, advised the board additional state signage such as blue information signs and tourist oriented destination signs were not options due to DOT regulations.
Out of the town’s pocket
Between the two meetings, the town received an estimate on installing “Welcome to Shallotte” signs. A sand-blasted sign with no landscaping will cost the town an estimated $3,800. Estimates for brick surround will cost another $1,000.
“Maybe we could do smaller signs to save money,” said Sara McCullough, mayor. “Or do one now and another next budget year because if we put one at the end of 130, we must put one on the other end. We will also need to find a place to lease for the sign.”
A suggestion was made for the business owners to look into a monument sign with multiple businesses displayed.
“I think the town should continue to investigate ‘welcome to Shallotte’ signs at a lower cost,” said Walt Eccard, alderman. “But it falls back on the businesses. They know the rules and know we are willing to work with them. They need to go through the conditional use permitting process just like anyone else.”
Defining the request
“There are 60 to 70 businesses that need signs,” said Harold Matthews, spokesperson for the North Shallotte Business Members Association. “What can we do?”
“What do you want?” asked Eccard. “It is not the town’s responsibility to find the site and design to the sign.”
“We are talking about the whole area, not one business,” Matthews said. “I can’t come up with a signage idea that will fit. I don’t know what it would say.”
“I suggest you get together with the group and pick. It can be something generic,” McCullough said.
“North Shallotte Business District,” said Alan Lewis, alderman.
The board continued to offer the group suggestions. When asked directly if the group has tried to involve businesses such as Walmart or Home Depot, Matthews responded without answering.
“First of all, are we going to get the road opened back up?” he asked.
“We don’t have a timetable on that,” Eccard repeated from previous conversation. “We’ve been open that the timetable on that can take years. It is a balancing act to find a solution that happens now.”
All board members continued to offer advice on potential signage. It was suggested repeatedly to put anchor stores on the signs to draw traffic.
“I think the board is willing to tweak the ordinances but they can’t tell you what to put on it or where to put it,” Hughes repeated.
“We need something for all the businesses. Logistically it’s going to be tough,” Matthews said. “I think it’s going to hard.”
“The businesses didn’t create this problem,” said Debora Mawji, co-owner of Mama Brava’s restaurant. “It’s a problem we didn’t create and we are the ones suffering. People just can’t come up with the extra money.”
“And the attitude is we shouldn’t have to pay for what the town and the state created,” Matthews said. “The only thing that is going to matter is getting the road opened back up.”
Accused of not being open
“In the October meeting, I asked you Alan (Lewis) if we can be privy. You said, ‘Absolutely.’ I didn’t get anything with a resolution,” Matthews said.
“My experience with DOT is public record,” Lewis explained.
The board explained the process of access to public records; the same access points were explained in the October meeting at the time of the request. Sandy Strickland, town clerk, let Matthews know he can come to town hall any time and request information.
Change of speed limit
Matthews brought up the speed limit being 55 mph on portions of the new road. He requested the town think about changing it to 45 mph before it changes to 35 mph.
The board agreed to draft a resolution to vote on during the January meeting. The board also agreed it needs to send all of its requests to DOT at one time.
“During the planning board meeting about potential projects, what came to light that is pressing for the whole area is the need to dredge the river,” Hughes said.
The board was advised if the town needs help to get it done, then they need to act immediately.
“I think the farther up we dredge it the better off we are,” Hughes said.
Current dredging projects are under way in the county making the need for immediate action imminent.
“I am familiar with it and support it. I ask that we draft a resolution,” said Lewis. “The mouth of the river is showing.”
“Oh, it’s in bad shape,” Hughes said. “We need dredging more than just there.”
The board decided to ask staff to draft a resolution, email it board members and to vote by phone.
Question of speed
“After the board of alderman meeting last Thursday evening, some of the North Shallotte Business Members Association stated that first of all they were thankful and pleased that the board decided to move forward with the re-opening of the Old Holden Beach Road by asking Albert Hughes to formally request the DOT to begin the process with a feasibility study,” Matthews said. “However, we wish some of the speed and enthusiasm that the board displayed to order a resolution that night and vote on it via email the next day for the dredging of the Shallotte River to accommodate the riverfront project could be shared with the north side of Shallotte.”
The board will reconvene at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 9. Board meetings are typically on the first Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. with pre-agenda meetings beginning at 5:30 p.m. The January meeting was rescheduled due to the New Year’s holiday.
Rachel Johnson is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email email@example.com.