OCBA Minutes from July

Ocracoke Civic and Business Association Minutes

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at Ocracoke Community Center

The meeting was called to order at 7:03 p.m. by President Rudy Austin. Attending: Rudy Austin, Clayton Gaskill, Carol Pahl, Connie Leinbach, Jim Borland, Justin LeBlanc, Fred & Ernie Westervelt, Robin Payne, Mickey Baker, Melinda Sutton, Tom Pahl, Fletcher O’Neal, Dick and Janey Jacoby, Sundae Horn, Shane Bryan from the NPS; two representatives from Set Up Events.

Minutes: A motion to approve the June minutes was made by Ernie Westervelt and seconded by Fred Westervelt. Motionapprovedandcarried.

Treasurer’s report: None this month. However, Ms. Pahl did some research and clarified how we can use the $35,000, and it was never a true “restricted” fund. It is just a “board designated” fund. After that, Robin Payne said we need to pay the $1,200 bill to Deel Engineering, who is working on the storm water project. A motion to pay that bill was made by Janey Jacoby and seconded by Melinda Sutton. Motion approved and carried. Officers’ reports: Rudy Austin reported that ferry traffic is good however, about every other ferry from Hatteras is going the long route, depending on the tide in the short route.The average wait time at Hatteras is 30 minutes. Connie Leinbach reported that nothing has been heard in a while on ferry toll legislation.

Travel & Tourism Director report: Sundae Horn reported that the July 4 activities went well, but some evening music did not happen due to rain. As for advertising, she learned about two billboards on Route 64 that are available and would be good to advertise Ocracoke. She gave the information to Clayton to give to the Occupancy Tax Board, which has money for advertising.

Work on the Visitor’s Center is progressing: the racks for cards are up and she is having to replace brochures already. Signs for the center are out. Sundae handed out copies of the USA Today Guide to National Parks that includes our ad. However, we had agreed to place an ad if it could be next to a story on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. In the final edition, the only story is about the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is eight hours away from the coast. So, they are giving Ocracoke a free ad in the NC Panthers Yearbook. She’s also working on a rack card design promoting coming to Ocracoke in the off-season.

NPS Report: Shane Bryan reported that there are 29 turtle nests, one of which is a green turtle. Expected hatch date is Aug. 8. July 17 will be the public meeting with the superintendent seeking public input on the proposed modifications to some beach access points.

Melinda Sutton pointed out that this is our opportunity to tell the Park Service we want more sound-side access, which will be very important for eco-tourism. We can’t market ourselves as such if there’s no sound-side access.

Firebreak: Shane said the federal budget sequester has delayed this, though everything is in place for the break to be cut. Fish & Wildlife is trying to fit it into their schedule, but now there are wildfires out west and resources are going to that. But, he expects to see the marsh master here soon. He introduced a new ranger, Mike Thacher, who is here for the summer.

County commissioner update: none

County Manager update: none

New Business: Representatives from Set Up Events spoke about their proposal to do a triathlon the weekend of April 26 & 27, 2014. Mary Toffolon, explained how their company puts on 140 triathlons a year; they would do all of the logistics; they have a 250,000-member database and would bring about 500 athletes to the island. They would need 1,000+ rooms. They prefer a spring date since the Ocracoke course would be a shorter one, building up to their larger (already established) ones in the fall. They want to partner with OCBA to put this on by recruiting volunteers to help. In their business model, they pay $20 per volunteer, or $1,000 for a group of 40 volunteers.

Clayton explained that our 5K/10K is locally produced and yields at least a $25,000 profit for WOVV Radio and others, and that the date for next year is already on April 26. They were asked to talk to race organizer Greg Honeycutt about possibly partnering with them.

Discussion on economic prosperity and appeal: Robin Payne explained how, from her personal observation, tourists are asking: “What has happened to Ocracoke?” in regards to the proliferation of non-uniform business signs and the increase in pop-up businesses along Highway 12 that may be taking away from the “step-back-in-time” appeal of Ocracoke and diminishing “the pearl of the Outer Banks,” which is also a part of the National Scenic Byway. While there is a development ordinance, there is nothing in place to preserve our core (tourism) assets. Many statistics can prove that our sales tax revenues will go down if the “core assets” are obscured. Yes, we are all about tourism, but what is our focus? If the community can balance our “quaint fishing village” heritage with business freedom, tax revenues will go up. After a long discussion about the Ocracoke Development Ordinance, landowners' rights vis-à-vis outdoor sales and the advertising thereof, the group agreed that an OCBA representative should attend the Ocracoke Planning Board meeting the next day to ask for their support in bringing a rural planner here for one meeting simply to talk about communities that border NPS properties, and possibly, if all agree, further help coordinating diverse viewpoints. OCBA would pay for this person’s travel expenses to Ocracoke. Connie Leinbach and Mickey Baker volunteered to attend. A motion to join in partnership with the Scenic Byways to ask a rural planner to visit the island (at OCBA expense) for an open meeting about educating the community to protect our key economic assets was made by Mickey Baker and seconded by Tom Pahl. Motion approved and carried, with Fred Westervelt voting no.

Old Business: the SIDCO request for funding was tabled until the August meeting.

Meeting adjourned at 10:04 p.m.

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