Kitty Hawk wants opinions on taxes for flood plan

By on April 4, 2013

Mayor Pro Tem Gary Perry. (Russ Lay)

Mayor Pro Tem Gary Perry. (Russ Lay)

After quickly working through a relatively routine agenda Tuesday night, the Kitty Hawk Town Council discussed storm damage reduction in areas of their beaches and between the highways.

In prepared remarks near the end of the meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Gary Perry addressed the council and the audience.

Perry outlined the town’s past involvement in working for a beach nourishment occupancy tax that could be used for more than the single purpose of pumping sand.

Throughout his remarks and in subsequent discussion among the council members, it was made clear the town was exploring many options that would mitigate storm damage from the ocean or rapidly remove flood water after a storm had passed.

Perry noted that the town would need extra funding to take even the most rudimentary next step, which is paying for a feasibility study of various options.

“In case you think the current ad valorum tax rate you pay is sufficient to pay for a study, permitting, or installation of any of the known options, let me give you the stark truth,” Perry said.

“What you currently pay is barely sufficient to meet the governmental services provided by the town.”

Perry explained that before the most recent revaluation of county property values, Kitty Hawk’s oceanfront property had a value estimated at $65 million. A one-cent increase in the property value rate would yield only $7,000 in additonal tax revenue.

For properties between the highways, the situation wasn’t any rosier. Perry said under the old valuation system those properties were worth $459 million, with a penny increase yielding only $46,000.

The tax rate is 20 cents per $100 of value.

The mayor pro tem then moved right to the meat of the matter: “Now is the time to discuss special taxes with special districts dedicated to the problem at hand. It is time for the council to publically discuss the two methods permitted by North Carolina statute.”

N.C. 12 in Kitty Hawk during Hurricane Sandy.  (N.C. Department of Transportation)

N.C. 12 in Kitty Hawk during Hurricane Sandy. (N.C. Department of Transportation)

The two options are a municipal service district, which requires a mass mailing to all property owners in the proposed district and which also describes the purpose, tax rate and legal information as required by statute.

The second option is a special tax via voter referendum.

Council members then discussed those methods. The referendum method raised concerns about tax-paying non-resident property owners being excluded from a vote even though their properties are affected by storm damage.

They also discussed Nags Head’s various attempts to fund nourishment and how that municipality eventually was able to start its project by creating two special districts without a referendum.

Ervin Bateman noted that he was in the tourism business and related a conversation he had with a customer. The customer told him he loved Bateman’s restaurant, but he doubted he would be returning.

Bateman said he thought the visitor was unhappy with the food or service, but when pressed, the customer gave a different response.

“Access to Hatteras Island is becoming more difficult. They’ve closed the beaches there and at Oregon Inlet in the summer. And there’s no beach in Kitty Hawk anymore. There really isn’t a reason for me to come down.”

Councilwoman Emilie Klutz said that while there is still opposition from many, including oceanfront property owners in Kitty Hawk, the fact that Nags Head had completed its project had caused many to re-think the issue.

Several business owners were present, including those from Ocean Boulevard and the Rundown Café. They supported more discussion that would lead to a resolution.

The council agreed it was time to have public meetings on the subject to take the pulse of the population and property owners on what, if anything, should be done.

Perry essentially said that whatever course of action the town takes will be up to citizens and property owners.

“If they don’t want to do anything, then at least we can say we gave them the chance,” he said.

In other matters, the town agreed to reduce the number of positions in the police department by one employee, which will leave the department with 18 full-time employees.

The town called for two public hearings on May 6.

One will deal with a proposal to allow larger neon “Open/Closed” signs for local businesses and the other will discuss a conditional use permit on Dominion Power’s property on The Woods Road to construct four wind turbines ranging in height from 40 to 70 feet for a research project.

In new business, the town voted to amend the town code to prohibit “sky lanterns,” which are rice-paper balloons illuminated by live flames and often suspended in the air.

The use of sky lanterns has become popular at outdoor wedding receptions and parties and the request for the ban came from the town’s fire chief.

The council also voted to award $52,700 to construct two beach overwalks at East Kitty Hawk Road and Lillian Street, one of which will be fully ADA compliant. The low bidder was Lyn Small Construction.

Two groups of First Flight High School students presented proposals to the town as part of a civics class project.

One asked the council to consider expanding the Lillian Street parking lot by 14 paces. The other asked the council to install solar-powered streetlights at a dozen crosswalks along the Beach Road to increase pedestrian safety.

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