The Town of Leland turned 28 years old this month. The current population, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, is just under 19,000 people. That’s growth of about 37% in just the last six years. Leland is part of the Myrtle Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area – despite its proximity to Wilmington. That was a change a major change for Brunswick County which took effect two years ago.
Arguably, the biggest challenge facing Leland Town Council is dealing with the rapid growth and accompanying infrastructure needs that come with a large influx of people. A quarter of Brunswick County’s population is 65 and over – and it’s likely that Leland, as a retirement destination for Baby Boomers, has a higher-than-average senior population.
The Town Council has four members that serve staggered four-year terms. The Mayor serves a two-year term.
There are five candidates on the ballot for the two open seats. Two of them are incumbents seeking re-election. Initially, three challengers tossed their hats in the ring. Now, one of them, Shirley Lawler, tells us she is not actively pursuing her campaign. We will meet the remaining four candidates this week – three of them on this edition.
Segment 1: Pat Batleman
Pat Batleman has lived in Leland since 2005. She retired after 40 years spent primarily in Washington DC. Her last job was as Executive Assistant to the managing director of The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm.
In 2007, Leland Mayor Walter Futch invited her to serve on the Town’s Code of Ordinances Rewrite Task Force. That led to her decision to run for town council in 2009. She is the current Leland representative on the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transportation Advisory Committee. She served as Vice Chairman from 2014-2015. She also serves on the WAVE Transit Operations Committee and is a member of the Transportation Demand Management Task Force, soon to be launched as GO COAST. And she’s a member of the Wilmington Mayor’s Task Force to study the feasibility of Rail Realignment.
Rachel Lewis Hilburn: Pat Batleman, welcome to CoastLine.
Pat Batleman: Thank you, Rachel. Happy to be here.
RLH: Why a third term? What is it that you're involved in that you want to make sure it comes to fruition?
PB: The growth of Leland has been phenomenal. We have proceeded cautiously and have actually created a set of guidelines for ourselves. What we want to accomplish is managed growth. At the same time we want to be able to focus in on the things that we are going to have to have under control to manage this growth, such as the infrastructure situation, traffic, affordable housing, the education of our area, even though that is a county responsibility, we're very much interested in that. And, of course, economic growth is what is so important to us in the future of our town, and that's something that I've, it's been in my desire to get that moving along, and get us some more jobs for our area. I think that's absolutely critical.
RLH: We'll get to infrastructure and economic growth in just a moment, but you've spent so much time and effort on transportation issues around the region, that seems to be a particular area of expertise for you. Now that the causeway is open, what are some of the other transportation improvements that people traveling between New Hanover and Brunswick counties can expect to see?
PB: Well, I think as most people know, the I-140 that provides another bridge crossing the Cape Fear, that is supposed to be ready for use sometime end of November or maybe beginning of December. And we expect that to make another huge impact, just as the expansion of the causeway did. As far as what I'd like to see us do in Leland to address our traffic issues going forward, is we need to start thinking about where we're going to improve the current roads that we have. For instance, Village Road we did some work on it a few years ago, but then we had to postpone during the second phase of that, so that we could put that money into the causeway. Well now, I want to put that back on the front burner, the widening of the rest of Village Road. Also, I'd like to put the widening of Lanvale Road on there and the widening of Fayetteville Road. I think having four lanes instead of two, is going to make a huge difference for getting our growing population to be able to move around better.
RLH: You mentioned economic growth as an urgent part of your mandate at this point. Leland theoretically would have a leg up when it comes to attracting businesses with higher paying jobs, and that's partly because it seems to boast a higher than average education level. According to the Leland master plan, almost every age group -- this is not just retirees -- exceeds the high school and Bachelor's Degree statistics for the state, county, and neighboring Wilmington. That was a surprise to me. It's not just the older, more affluent retiree population coming here. So how is Leland using that information? Because right now, the businesses that we're seeing coming in do not carry those kinds of jobs.
PB: That's correct. Right now, it's primarily retail. However, what is growing, and impressively so, is the medical field because we have a growing campus at Brunswick Forest. We have EmergOrtho coming in with a surgical center. We now have dialysis facilities. We have more of this coming into our area, and those jobs, of course, are professional jobs, and soon we're going to have a nursing home where we'll be looking for hiring there.
But one of the things that we're working on with Wilmington is on InnovateNC, and what we are trying to do through collaboration is to bring in or entice the marine bioscience industry. We think that Leland is well-suited for that, and that's what we've been trying to, you know, get a good grasp of, and work with our fellow Wilmingtonians and others to attract that new industry.
RLH: How how is Leland well suited for the biomarine, bioscience industry?
PB: I think our, the availability of the land in order to build the facilities that they would need is something that we have available. The fact that we're right there on the river, and the fact that we do have local talent, as you say, who would be suited to those kinds of positions. So I think it's obviously something that is going to make a big impact on the whole country, is that segment of the industry.
RLH: Ashley writes: the Town of Leland has only 1,500 water customers, yet they erected a $2.6 million water tower that cannot be filled above 10 percent capacity. Now, an additional million dollars will be spent for a booster pump, piping, electrical, and installation that adds up to twenty four hundred dollars per customer. How can that expenditure be justified for 1,500 customers out of more than 20,000 citizens? Especially since -- I don't think it's quite 20,000 -- but especially since Leland was offered access to a water tower about a half mile away?
PB: We are taking care of the areas that we are responsible for. Brunswick Forest, of course, they decided that they wanted to be under the Town of Leland as far as water and sewer services are concerned, and we are now going to be entering into Mallory Creek plantation. So we, it's not just a thousand, believe me, there will be a lot more. And the situation with the water tank, people have said that there's no water in it. Well, of course that's foolish. There is water in it, and there is a sufficient enough of amount of water in it, because those folks in Brunswick Forest couldn't turn their tap water on and get water out of it if there weren't.
RLH: Is the Town of Leland in competition with the water and sewer utility, H2GO?
PB: We're not in competition. The town, the Brunswick Forest developers initially had the sanitary district's service, but they were very unhappy with the fact that the sanitary district was basically trying to price gouge them. So they went back to the original documents where Leland, you know, had accepted the Brunswick Forest pud. And we, there is a clause in there that says that Leland will provide the water, and that is how we got into the water business.
RLH: Is this one of the reasons that the Town of Leland opposes H2GO's push to build this 30 plus million dollar reverse osmosis plant?
PB: The Town is very concerned about the management of H2GO. They rushed into this RO theory -- and not to say that that RO is not a good idea. Everybody wants clean water. We all do. But if you work together as a region to come up with the right solution so that everybody gets clean water, not just 10,000 customers. That's the way to go. And there are some candidates running for H2GO, who actually have a very sound plan that could be implemented to provide clean water at a significantly less amount of money than 33 million. That's a lot of money for 10,000 customers to be responsible for, and statements to the effect that anybody can run an RO plant. That's a foolish statement. Anybody who says that an RO plant is the only way to go is not thinking clearly as to what other technologies are out there. There's just an awful lot to this issue, and I would really like everyone to try to keep an open mind.
RLH: So if the Town of Leland is moving its water service into places where previously have been served by H2GO, does that mean you're going to wind up preventing H2GO from a customer base, from any kind of growth, in terms of its customer base?
PB: They have an opportunity to continue to grow. They certainly, they've got Compass Pointe, and there'll be other developments coming in other than Brunswick Forest, so they still have an opportunity to grow. However, sanitary districts were created years ago, really to serve rural populations. They were not created to serve big populations like Leland's about to get.
RLH: Do you, Pat Batleman, think it's time for H2GO to go away and get folded into Brunswick County or the Town of Leland?
PB: Personally, I would like to see that, because I think you need to consolidate. Everything we've read and learned through our government classes that we've taken, and through articles that we've read, people that we've talked to, you really, with the financial situation that we have, you have to make the most out of the income that you have from your tax base. Consolidation and regionalization makes so much more sense than trying to do things independently.
RLH: And we only have a few minutes left, so I don't want to spend too much time on the water issue. But I do have to ask about GenX. We hear that H2GO is building this reverse osmosis plant. We've heard from scientists that's the best method for removing GenX and similar chemical compounds from the water supply. What's Leland's answer to that?
PB: We are trying to, well actually, what we what we want to do is, first see how the testing goes with CFPUA's granulated activated carbon process. If it turns out that RO is the absolute, ultimate only way to eliminate every single contaminant, even unknown contaminants, then fine. But we maintain that there is a way to do that without building a $33 billion plant. For example, if you put an RO plant, one of these small units in every household, and you give them a voucher to put that in there, you're going to spend four million dollars instead of $34 million.
RLH: So that is one possible solution for Leland, you're saying, is to just let every household install its own...
PB: The water utility would be the ones to provide that.
RLH: And is that something that would be completely paid for under this plan? Because certainly there are folks who can afford that, and there are other folks who couldn't afford it.
PB: We're already spending $34 million, and that's money coming from people who can't afford it, also. So in this case, you're going to, you would be getting a voucher from the water utility to put in this unit.
RLH: Finally, the number of sewer overflow incidents, primarily in Magnolia Greens, that doesn't sound like the Department of Environmental Quality is very impressed with Leland's response to this handling of the issue, according to The Star News. They made recommendations that weren't followed. Do you have a quick answer for that?
PB: Quickly, we are working on it. We have plans. We are rearing and ready to go.
RLH: That's our time. Pat Batleman, thank you so much for being with us.
PB: Thank you, Rachel.
Segment 2: Sandra Ford
Sandra Ford has raised two sons and volunteered for the Cub Scouts, PTA boards and swim teams. She has opened and run an art jewelry gallery in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. When the health of her parents started to fail, she sold that business to became their caretaker. Sandra Ford has also worked in real estate. Now, as a Leland resident, she is an environmental advocate with BEAT – Brunswick Environmental Action Team.
Rachel Lewis Hilburn: Sandra Ford, welcome to CoastLine.
Sandra Ford: Thank you.
RLH: This would be your first run at elected office?
SF: Well, other than PTA, student council, those kind of things, yes. This is my first government job that I have run for, yes.
RLH: And so why are you seeking a seat on Leland's Town Council? What do you want to bring to the board that you think isn't there?
SF: What I'd like to bring to the board is, Leland, I feel like is at a crossroads right now. It's developed for the last 10 years, 20 years, and it's big enough now that I think it's time for Leland to decide what it really wants to be. I would like to see Leland be a strong advocate in Brunswick County for clean water, clean air, a good place for retirees to move to, but also for families. We need to devote a lot of energy into getting good jobs to move in. And that's the kind of things that I think as a former realtor that I could help bring to the table, is how to develop Leland in a way that it is very family and retiree friendly.
RLH: We've seen extraordinary growth in Leland, a lot of that growth is coming from retirees, baby boomers who are moving to Leland for a lot of different reasons. Part of it is because they get more bang for their buck with real estate there. But we also know that statistically, Leland in all age groups exceeds state, county, and even neighboring Wilmington statistics for levels of education. There's a very educated population in Leland. Why are we not seeing the growth, in terms of those higher paying jobs with that educated population there?
SF: The population is educated, but I think that North Carolina and Brunswick County really needs to focus on education for the children that are there now. I think that if you want to bring in high paying jobs, and jobs that make a living wage, that you need to have things for the people moving in -- not even a big company, medium sized company, startup companies -- are looking for. They like to look for an area, of course, that has amenities like beaches and all the things that this area offers. But the other thing that they're looking for is quality of life, and quality of life means: Are there good schools for their children to go to? And also I think the clean water issue is going to play a big part in that.
RLH: So we'll talk about the water issue in just a second, but talk about education for a moment, what role would you, if you won a seat on Leland Town Council, how would you influence the quality of education in Brunswick County?
SF: There's not, you know, there's not too much that the Leland Town Council can do, other than the fact that Leland is the largest municipality in Brunswick County, and as that, I think they could be the leading driving force with all the other municipalities to insist that Brunswick County do more to improve their schools.
RLH: And you're talking about just advocating at the level of the Board of Commissioners.
SF: That's right.
RLH: And talk about the issue of clean water there, we all know when the Star News broke the story of GenX and the drinking water supply back in June of this year, for some people, it really bolstered the case for H2GO's reverse osmosis plant. Leland, as we know, has been publicly against the building of that 30 plus million dollar plant. Where do you stand on that issue?
SF: Obviously, if I'm on the board of Leland Town Council, I don't have any control over H2GO. My feeling is, as far as clean water, I don't care where Leland gets it from, if it's Brunswick County, which is where Leland gets its water now, or if it's from H2GO's reverse osmosis plant. If they get to build it, I don't care. I just know that very little, right now, is being done in Brunswick County to push the state and push Chemours, and whoever else is dumping pollutants into the river to stop.
RLH: Mary-Ann from Leland called in and asked: Why doesn't Leland regionalize with H2GO? Why don't they join forces? They've already done the work and the research.
RLH: Can you see that as a possibility?
SF: Leland joining forces with H2GO? I have no problem with that. I am not here to advocate for one or another. All I am saying is, I'm for whoever can get us clean water the fastest, if that means Leland buys its water from H2GO, and they have the reverse osmosis plant, that's fine with me. For a regional solution for Brunswick County, it's going to take years.
RLH: You say that you are involved in B.E.A.T., which stands for Brunswick Environmental Action Team. What is its mandate?
SF: BEAT is an offshoot of a group that started in Sunset Beach years ago. We decided that Brunswick County had grown enough that Brunswick County needed its own environmental group. We are involved in advocating to not allow offshore drilling off the coast. Brunswick County is the only county, I think maybe there's one other in North Carolina that has come out in favor of offshore drilling, all the other counties on the coast have advocated to not drill. So we're out to say, first of all, there's no offshore drilling, then there's GenX, then there's things that don't really affect Leland like the terminal groins on the beach. So anything that is environmental that we can have in a position about and try to help advocate for, that's what we're doing.
RLH: And so BEAT is officially against the installation of terminal groins?
RLH: In the bio. that you sent us, you devoted a lot of space to what you did to support your family: your husband, the sons that you raised, your parents. One of the things that you said is that you're proud of the fact that your family felt loved and supported. Tell us why that's important, and tell us what that allows you to bring to Leland Town Council? What's the connection there?
SF: Well my ex-husband traveled a lot for his job. And so, I feel that by the fact that I was always there for my children, it gave them continuity, whether we move to a new state because of his job or we were in a foreign country because of his job. You know, I was kind of the anchor that was there for them. So I am a very focused...now that my children are grown and I'm a grandmother, so now my focus is, Leland is my baby now. So I give the same devotion to Leland that I have since I've moved here as I have to my children.
RLH: Why can't Leland meet and work well with Belville and the other entities in northern Brunswick County? Now, of course, you haven't been on Town Council, so you haven't been part of that history. There has been a rather abrasive relationship at different points between the municipalities. What's your answer to that?
SF: Well, I have always been a collaborative person and has been able to get along with other people. I think having new leadership and new people on the board could be an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start over. I do happen to know the Mayor pro-tem of Belville, and I'm friends with her. I think that would kind of make it a little easier for me to come in and say let's work together, but I think just new players makes it time to start over and start fresh.
RLH: In the Leland 2020 plan, one of the key principles is that: local character builds regional economies. We know now that Chick-Fil-A and Panera Bread are going up in a busy part of Leland. How would you encourage the growth of local character, and what does that mean to you? How do you define local character?
SF: Well, I think that we have to decide what we want to look like in 20 years. Do we want it to look like Myrtle Beach, and just big box everything, everywhere, or do we want it to have a more diverse and unique character, and of course, I come out for the more diverse, unique character. One of the things that I like in the Wilmington area is how many interesting, unique restaurant choices there are. So while I have no objection to places like Chick-Fil-A and Panera, I would like to encourage some unique and one of a kind restaurants, farm to table restaurants, so that it’s not just one big chain restaurant after another that comes in, which I think gives an area a little more character.
RLH: What does it take to do that?
SF: Well, I have already restaurants that I have eaten at in Wilmington that I think would be a good choice to have in Leland. I have been talking to them to consider opening another location in Leland. I don’t think everything has to be a unique, one of a kind restaurant, but I prefer the smaller chains like Cape Fear Seafood. That's great, of course. They opened Shuckin' Shack. Again, I prefer smaller, local places than big chains that are all over the entire country. That's just, to me it makes that area a little more unique.
RLH: We know that the poverty rate in Leland is dropping. Is that simply a dilution of more affluent baby boomers moving in from other places? And where do you think the poverty is in Leland, and what role, if any, do you think you need to play in that as a member of the town council?
SF: I think that we need to focus on having a diverse price of housing. I don't have any objection to nice expensive houses, but I think that we're in danger of having so much higher-end housing that people that don't make as much can afford to still live in Leland. In the new apartments, for example, that they just finished across from where I live, a one bedroom apartment is $960 a month, which if you're working in a minimum wage job, I don't see how anybody can afford to do that. So we don't want to exacerbate the traffic situation in Leland by making people who live, or excuse me, work in Leland, have to drive in from someplace else because they can no longer afford to live there. So I have no objection to nice apartments, but they have to be affordable as well.
RLH: So how would you, as a member of Leland Town Council, facilitate more affordable housing?
SF: I would work with developers to encourage them to include those in their plans. I know there's a brand new community that was just approved that is luxury, townhouse style apartments in Waterford. So I don't think those are going to meet that parameter. So it is important to have a variety of, the same tax dollars can come out of for smaller houses on one lot as they could come out of a one large house on a large lot.
RLH: Is your candidacy about greater involvement in the growth of Leland, or is there something that you're seeing in terms of what Leland Town Council is doing now, that just rankles for you, that you just think is wrong?
SF: Rankles is probably the wrong word. I think that Leland is growing a little too fast. I would like to have Leland take a deep breath and get infrastructure in place before development takes place. I would like to have them hold the developers' feet to the fire a little bit more than they have. I have lived many places and some of them have been built in prehistoric times, and the roads are pretty narrow there. But we don't live in the days when chariots were going down the road. We live with cars, and you need to have some parking situations created in Leland developments. I honestly don't think a lot of the people that are moving in here, as they're looking at their new home, really pay that much attention to how narrow their street is. Until they get here, and then find out that their friends, when they come over, are not supposed to be parking on the street because there is no on-street parking.
RLH: And so you're looking back, let's say you've won a seat. You're looking back now, you're completing your four-year term. What's different about Leland, very briefly?
SF: What's different about Leland? Leland would have clean water. Leland would have a variety of unique and interesting places to shop, which in Leland is very much lacking right now. I would like to try to improve the entrance to Leland, there on 74/76 in Village Road.
RLH: And that's our time. Sandra Ford, thank you so much for being with us today.
SF: You're welcome. Thanks for inviting me.
Segment 3: Joy Cranidiotis
Joy Cranidiotis was born in Wilmington and raised in Leland. She has a BA in Parks and Recreation Management from the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
For 25 years, she worked in Pharmaceutical/Biotech sales and consulting – including for Genentech. She acted as general contractor on her own home in Rivercroft Estates where she also served as the President of the Neighborhood Trustees for nearly 30 years. And she owned and developed a commercial project on Hwy 133.
Rachel Lewis Hilburn: Joy Cranidiotis, welcome to CoastLine.
Joy Cranidiotis: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.
RLH: Glad to have you here. Have you ever taken a run at elective office before?
JC: Absolutely not.
RLH: Why Leland Town Council?
JC: Well, actually I'm not a politician, but I had so many of my friends come to me and say, you know, we need someone to listen to us. We need someone from here, who understands the past, and can have a better perspective of what the future needs to be. And so, that's what got me started as well as the water situation.
RLH: So let's take the first component of that first. What does that mean? How would your perspective as someone who was really born and raised in this area, which as we know is unusual, especially in Leland. How would that change the direction of Leland?
JC: Well, I think to to really go forward you have to know the history. I give you the example of H2GO, and not to stay on the water situation, but to go back in the 60s, 70s, we had no water, no sewer. It was very difficult to have a commercial endeavor, unless you were a large land owner with a lot of money, who could install your own systems. So a couple of little ladies got together and formed this water authority to get water from Brunswick County and Sewer, so you kind of have to understand that.
RLH: And what does that mean today, in terms of the direction for Leland and H2GO?
JC: Well, I think there's a lot of misconception about H2GO's motives, and where they came from, why were they established. They've been consistently working towards a better option of water versus having water from the Cape Fear River, which we know is contaminated and is going to be a tremendous effort to clean that up.
RLH: Are you saying that you're supporting H2GO's plans to move forward with the 30 plus million dollar reverse osmosis plant?
RLH: And what do you say to people, who argue we really need to regionalize here? Mary-Ann from Leland asked earlier: Why doesn't Leland regionalize with H2GO? Why don't they join forces? They've already done the work and the research.
JC: Well, I don't see why they couldn't at some point. I just know that for, since 2011 H2GO has been working towards getting off the river water, and the aquifer is the way to do that. I believe in supporting the county. There's no reason not to do that and and work together. I don't know if you'll ever see the two entities come together, because they have such polarized views of how we should go forward. So I would hope they would. I would love to see that happen because this water affects my friends in Wilmington and Southern Brunswick County, everybody.
RLH: And is that really the the emerging issue for you, is that why your friends, you say, came to you and urged you to run for Leland Town Council?
RLH: So let's say you win a seat, then you're going to be pushing for what to happen, specifically?
JC: Specifically, that the Town of Leland stop trying to dissolve H2GO and try to work with H2GO and allow them to go forward with the reverse osmosis and get us some clean drinking water.
RLH: It was interesting to me that you use the term: Some ladies came together back in the 70s to create H2GO. It's notable to me that of the four active candidates for these two open seats on Leland's Town Council, three are women. The mayor of Leland is a woman. Wilmington has a difficult time getting women to run for office. There's currently one woman on Wilmington City Council, and she is finishing out this term. What accounts for that in Leland? Why such a different atmosphere that way?
JC: Strong women. I don't know really. I think that coming from Leland, historically the women have been strong, have had to be strong. I have really no other explanation for that than that.
RLH: We have a question Lenny from Leland, he called and said: Why all the restructuring of job titles and positions among Leland municipal workers? Where is this currently?
JC: I do not know, that is not a question that I could really answer. I do hate seeing name changes, such as we used to be North Carolina Deaner, and now it's DEQ. All the names have changed, and I think that just creates confusion.
RLH: We've heard about a number, an inordinate number of sewer overflow incidents, primarily in Magnolia Greens. The Department of Environmental Quality is not exactly impressed with the Town of Leland's handling of this. They made recommendations a while ago, according to the Star News, that haven't really been followed. How would you handle that situation?
JC: Well, that's going to be a difficult situation to handle at this point because things have gone pretty far. My understanding, and I've done a lot of research on this. We've got to fix that water main that comes from Brunswick Forest. So that is a situation, in my opinion, that an ounce of prevention would be worth a pound of cure. Had that been done properly and the developer not allowed to cut corners, we wouldn't be in this situation.
But now we are and we have to fix it, and it's going to be costly. So they're trying to get lines down to a another water treatment plant, which is also -- by the way -- almost at full capacity. So that's going to have to be rebuilt or another one built. So that's it's quite a conundrum, unfortunately, but it is something that we have to work to repair what we have.
RLH: And you said this is largely because the developer was allowed to cut corners. So then how, if you're elected, how would you change that kind of a situation? How would you hold developers' feet to the fire?
JC: I would do everything in my power to hold developers to what they say they're going to do, on paper the planning would have to be very, very well scrutinized, perhaps a bond. I've been in meetings where I've heard developers say: I think so, as their answer, that is not an acceptable answer. It's got to be on paper. They have to follow through and Town Council has to make them follow through.
RLH: We've watched over the last several years some pretty high tension between neighboring municipalities and Leland's, and I'm thinking specifically of Belville, there was a territorial dispute over an ABC store and there have been other issues that have arisen, those two haven't really worked very well together. Why do you think that's happened, and is there a remedy?
JC: There is a remedy. You work with those people. The mayor of Belville is, he and I taught karate together years ago. So we're friends. You know, you have to have an open, honest communication situation and system, not polarize. Leland should be working with Belville fully, Navassa, all of that because together we can do a lot more.
RLH: And you don't think that Leland should be taking over a Belville, like that's an unnecessary municipality?
JC: I think there's a, you know, if you look at Leland and Belville, you know, it looks really crazy on paper, but Belville has done some really nice things. They've put that park, gotten grant money to do this lovely Belville Park. And I think probably...
RLH: You're talking about the park on the River Front?
JC: Yes, on highway 1-33. So they've done some really great things. So I say let them keep doing that, and let's help them, let them help us.
RLH: And if it didn't work out, you could always take out the mayor with your karate.
JC: Yes, and we can't say that because he was a black belt too, so...
RLH: So you're a black belt in karate?
RLH: I'll watch my p's and q's. In the Leland 2020 plan, one of the key principles is that local character builds regional economies. We're watching a Chick-Fil-A and a Panera Bread going up in downtown Leland. How would you encourage the growth of local character, and what does that mean to you? How do you define it?
JC: Well, you know, you look at downtown Wilmington; I love downtown Wilmington. We have a great opportunity, I believe, on Village Road to make that the heart of Leland. And to make that more quaint, walkable pedestrian paths; sidewalks smaller, not high rise buildings. So those are some things that I would would be very in favor of doing.
RLH: How do you make Leland more walkable?
JC: Well, we have to do it now before a lot more is developed, because the more mortar that goes up, the fewer opportunities we have to get right-of-ways and put bike trails and such in. There is a bike trail plan, a pedestrian plan in place, and I don't know where they are in the process of implementing that plan, but I think it's a really good idea to do that.
RLH: We know that obesity is a major health issue for the nation, for North Carolina, for Brunswick County, and probably for Leland. Although we don't have those numbers, childhood obesity, we also know is on the rise as adult obesity and all of the accompanying health issues that go with that. What role, if any, does Leland's Town Council play in addressing that major health problem?
JC: Well, that's tough. I think just some of the things I just mentioned, if we could ride a bike to the grocery store, if people were inclined to be outdoors on a sidewalk, meeting with other people. You know, some of the recreation facilities cooperating with the schools. That's really where this starts, is education and getting these children off of the games, the XBox, whatever. So I think, you know, coordinated efforts.
RLH: What does it mean, in practice, that for Leland they've switched with Brunswick County from the Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area, a couple of years ago to the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Metropolitan Statistical Area. Should that change Leland's orientation to their marketing and their economic growth plan or not?
JC: Well, I would think it would. I think that 17 corridor leads to Myrtle Beach, but I still think we are better aligned with Wilmington than that far south. But the implication to me, is that means we're going to try to develop all the way down to the state line, which, you know, I may be wrong in that, but that's one area I haven't spent a lot of thought.
RLH: So when you think about economic growth then, we talked a little bit about local character but the larger growth picture, how does that need to unfold?
JC: Slowly. Slowly and thoughtfully. I am a firm believer that bigger is not better, that we don't need a piece of concrete on every piece of earth. And the types of development that we do, I mean, we have restaurants. We're getting more restaurants. So we have more restaurants. We have more apartments. We have more houses. We have no jobs. We have service jobs. We should be looking at things like that, trying to bring in better positions. I know that the Town is working with Wilmington and the Chamber of Commerce there, and they are trying to bring in more jobs, and I think that's very important.
RLH: Thank you so much for being with us today.
JC: Thank you so much for having me.