Newcomer Wrightsville Beach board candidates talk development, dogs and bike safety

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Kissing babies at her campaign introduction event on Sunday, July 23, Pat Prince embraced the role as a candidate for the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen, chatting with potential voters and kicking off what will be a competitive town election race in November. Prince is one of five candidates running for two open seats, four of which have never been elected to public office.

“I know I don’t know it all, I’m more than willing to say that, but I will also take the time to listen and to learn,” Prince told more than a dozen supporters at the event at Jimmy’s at Red Dogs.

She was one of two candidates to file for the board of alderman race before the Friday, July 21 deadline. Prince, vice president of the Wrightsville Beach Foundation, and Sounia Nejad Chaney, a local realtor, joined three candidates who filed around the July 7 beginning of the filing period.  Chaney said that she was surprised in 2015 when none of the board candidates faced challengers.

“I didn’t think that was right, there need to be more choices and some fresh ideas,” she said.

Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen candidate Pat Prince kisses the baby of a supporter at her campaign kickoff event on Sunday, July 24. Prince is one of four candidates vying for their first elected office. Staff photo by Terry Lane.

The candidates for the open board seats include one incumbent, Henry “Hank” Miller, III., a local commercial real estate broker who’s been on the board since 2013. The other candidates would be newcomers to the board, including Ken Dull, the chairman of the Wrightsville Beach Planning Board, and Pat Bradford, owner and publisher of Wrightsville Beach Magazine, as well as the former publisher of Lumina News.

Prince said commercial development, traffic, bicycle safety and dog-friendly policies would be central issues to her campaign. A top priority for the board should be to find ways to develop commercial properties that are a blight on the town.

“We have several properties that are eyesores,” Prince said, referencing the vacant lot by Johnnie Mercer’s Pier, the abandoned Scotchman by the Salisbury Bridge, the nearby former site of the Pizza Hut, and the Middle of the Island building.

Prince said that the town’s 40-foot building height limits could be exempted for some properties and that the town should look for new ways to develop the other properties.

“There are plans that have been presented for some of these properties. We need to look at ways to bring in businesses that can provide commercial services so that the people who live here don’t have to worry about crossing the bridge,” she said.

But Chaney said preservation of the town’s building height limits would be an element in her campaign.

“I’m concerned about the cosmetic look of Wrightsville Beach,” she said.

Chaney touted her experience in other leadership roles, including serving on the boards of the Fairfax, Va. Chamber of Commerce and an IBM-based technology international users group and as president of homeowners and parent teachers association.

Chaney, who is currently learning to kiteboard, is also active in the Cape Fear Rotary Club.

While it’s Chaney’s first run for office in Wrightsville Beach, she did unsuccessfully run for town council in Vail, Colo.

“I earned a lot of votes and brought up new topics for discussion,” she said of the experience. “That’s what I’m going to try to do here.”

Another issue Prince wants the board to look into is providing more space for dogs to run.

“This is a dog town and we need to find a spot somewhere for a dog area, so people can have a place to let their dog run,” she said.

Opening more times or areas for dogs to run on the beach could be an option, she said, but said the town should consider all possibilities, including finding public or private land to create a dog park.

Chaney also said that there should be more opportunity to walk dogs in Wrightsville Beach and said she would be supportive of efforts to open up the beach to dogs in morning and evening hours, with potentially some restrictions.

Prince said a recent incident where a friend bicycling on the south end was brushed into trash cans by a car demonstrated the need for more bicycle safety policies, including creating more bike lanes.

“This is not a bike safe place,” Prince said.

The election is scheduled for Nov. 7, 2017.

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