After a busy 2014, the Wrightsville Beach Chamber of Commerce has set its sights on big picture items for its priorities in 2015.
Chamber board member Sue Bulluck said with the flurry of changes for home and business owners on the beach from homeowner’s insurance rates to Federal Emergency Management Agency flood zone ratings, the town should collectively consider what it wants to look like in the future.
“Our primary goal is really to begin to urge the powers that be to look and deal with the fact that we have no firm plan in place for the rebuilding process in view of the changes that have taken place over the last several years,” Bulluck said. “All of those are different changes and all of those seem to have been developed in a vacuum.”
In the event of a major hurricane and the destruction of many of the older buildings that house businesses, Bulluck said it would be hard for business owners to rebuild to current building codes and guidelines. Working with the Town of Wrightsville Beach and the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen to develop a process for the discussion and involvement of the public is the first step, she said.
“Some of these decisions are going to be determined by what the residents want since they are the voters,” she said. “If they want to hold firm on having things the way they are now, then, in the event of a major storm, businesses would likely not build back as businesses because the standards for residential are much easier to meet than commercial. That would dynamically and drastically change the flavor of the beach.”
As far as what she would like to see emerge from a long-range planning process, Bulluck said she hopes it will be something that reflects past efforts, like the planning charette previously hosted by the town, while also looking to the future.
“Coming out of the charette is really how we got where we are now, which in some ways is good because we got some consensus on height and setbacks. … But now the world is changed again and we have to redo that process,” Bulluck said. “The new view would hopefully have some factors that would allow for not building boxes, allow for outdoor space use, looking toward lighting and possibly addressing the electrical grid.”
In addition to pushing the discussion of long-range planning on the beach, Bulluck said the chamber would continue to work with the Wrightsville Beach Marketing Advisory Committee and New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority to promote the beach businesses and grow shoulder season revenues.
“That is part of maintaining healthy businesses, promoting our businesses outside the area, getting our share of promotional money from the [Tourism Development Authority] and keeping enough members energized and seeing value so that the chamber continues,” Bulluck said.