For years, at least four churches around Wrightsville Beach have been letting beachgoers use their parking lots on busy weekends. Now, on the busiest holidays, the town will have some measure of control over the situation.
The board of aldermen voted unanimously May 12 to make the practice an official town policy, with regulations.
The policy allows the churches to use their lots as commercial lots on Memorial Day weekend, July 4th and Labor Day weekend, provided they meet a list of noise, trash and safety rules: staffing the lots with at least one adult, providing and emptying trash receptacles, and only asking for donations, not payment, from beachgoers.
“It’s been going on, so we’re really just trying to legitimize it,” Alderwoman Lisa Weeks explained.
During the public hearing, several residents spoke in favor of the town’s efforts to make the situation work, saying it was a benefit to both beachgoers and the churches.
On July 4th, resident Jim Smith pointed out, by 9 or 10 a.m. cars are already “circling like vultures,” so it benefits everyone to offer a few extra parking spots. And the churches don’t use the donations for staff salaries or building maintenance, he added—it all goes to their mission trips.
Wrightsville Beach Baptist Church member Mike Edmonds confirmed that, saying his church would use the money to run two youth camps in Moldova this year. And, if any neighbors witnessed issues related to noise, trash or tailgating in the church’s parking lots, he encouraged them to “just bring it to me or [Pastor] John McIntyre and it will be dealt with swiftly.”
Since the policy is new, board members agreed that after this summer, they would reevaluate it and tweak it as needed.