Commissioner Frank Williams’ Comments on the Cape Fear Crossing

May 17, 2019 — In recent weeks I have received numerous comments from citizens expressing their opinions on the various alternatives for the future Cape Fear Crossing bridge. I have read and attempted to respond to every email on this subject (I apologize if I missed anyone). I also attended one of the public hearings and watched the video of the second. I understand the concerns stated by those who have emailed us. At the same time, I understand the complexities of the merger process.

Yesterday, I submitted my comments on this project to NCDOT in advance of the deadline. The text of my letter is below, and it can be viewed here as a PDF.

TEXT OF MY LETTER:

May 16, 2019

Attn: NCDOT / Cape Fear Crossing Merger Team

RE: Proposed Cape Fear Crossing

To Whom It May Concern:

I’m writing to share my perspective on the proposed routes for the future Cape Fear Crossing. I represent District 5, which includes Brunswick Forest and Mallory Creek, on the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners. I also live in an adjacent neighborhood, and I drive through both Mallory Creek and Brunswick Forest nearly every day. Additionally, I represent Brunswick County on the Wilmington MPO Board. I am writing in my capacity as an individual commissioner, as the Board of Commissioners has not adopted any formal position on this issue.

Let me begin by thanking you for your hard work on a thankless project. Like you, I have received emails from numerous citizens in the areas potentially affected by this future project. One of the challenges of leadership is making difficult decisions that may be unpopular. At the same time, we must understand and demonstrate empathy for those who have contacted us to express their concerns.

Please allow me to share a few facts and principles which guide my thinking on the potential alternatives:

  • The selected route should meet the project’s stated purpose and need: to improve traffic flow and enhance freight movements from U.S. 17 and I-140 in Brunswick County across the Cape Fear River to U.S. 421 near the Port of Wilmington in southern New Hanover County. While the Port is an important part of this equation, it is not the only
  • Brunswick County is the fastest-growing County in North Carolina and one of the fastest in the United States. Much of this growth is centered in and around Leland and is pushing further south down U.S. 17. The selected route should help accommodate that growth while not driving a stake through the heart of it.
  • Because Brunswick County’s growth will likely continue in years to come, we should not kick the can down the road.
  • Because of the potential adverse impacts of ongoing uncertainty on property values and the real estate market, we should select a route as soon as is practically possible.
  • Because of the two previous bullets, I cannot support any changes that move the merger process back to concurrence point #1.
  • While impacts on residential properties are only one of a long list of factors considered in the merger process, the human impact should not be taken lightly. As has been stated in many of the emails we have received, many of the people in the potential paths are seniors who have invested their life savings in their homes. This is an important factor that should be given its due consideration.
  • While it would be ideal to select a route that has no impacts on homes, that is not realistic given the practical realities of the merger process, the myriad of agencies involved, and federal laws that impact the process. With that said, the route should impact as few homes as practically possible, and NCDOT should not seek to short-change citizens whose homes are required to be purchased during future right-of-way acquisition.
  • The recent completion of Interstate 140 opened a northern route in and out of Brunswick County and a direct connection from Wilmington to Navassa. The causeway connecting the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and Isabel Holmes bridges to Brunswick County provide a connector from U.S. 74/76 and the heart of Leland and Belville. A future southern route will meet the purpose and need by increasing connectivity between southern New Hanover County and the southern portions of the Leland and Winnabow areas.
  • If the proposed route is to improve traffic flow, it should NOT dump traffic back onto US 17 or US 74/76. Instead, it should effectively be a southern extension of Interstate 140.
  • A southern route will provide quicker access for emergency vehicles serving southern portions of Leland and surrounding areas to reach the trauma center at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
  • None of these alternatives is perfect, but some will more effectively meet the purpose and need while creating as few adverse impacts as possible than others.

Given these facts, I strongly encourage the merger team to immediately eliminate alternatives B, Q & T. Further, while I am not as strongly opposed to alternative V-AW as proposed through the merger process, it is my understanding that the Federal Highway Administration has already stated that they could not sign off on this alternative. Regarding the modified VA-W proposal, it is my understanding that the NCDOT is evaluating it to determine whether it will meet the project’s purpose and need and whether it will have adverse effects. Of the alternatives currently under consideration by the merger team, I encourage the merger team to adopt alternative MA or NA, as unanimously recommended by the WMPO Board in May 2017, and then make every possible effort during the next phase (Avoidance & Minimization) to reduce or eliminate impacts to residents in Stoney Creek, Snee Farm, Snowfield and surrounding areas. Specifically, every effort should be made to route the road around neighborhoods rather than bisect them. Finally, I encourage NCDOT to take steps to mitigate the impact of noise on homes near the selected route.

Thank you for your consideration, and thank you for your diligence.

Sincerely,

Frank Williams
Brunswick County Commissioner
District 5

Commissioner Williams attends White House Conference on Opportunity Zones

WASHINGTON, D.C. [April 22, 2019 ] — Brunswick County Board of Commissioners Chairman Frank Williams was one of two North Carolina County Commissioners who attended the White House Opportunity Zone Conference with State, local, tribal, and community leaders on Wednesday, Apr. 17, 2019. Williams, who serves as 2nd Vice President of the N.C. Association of County Commissioners (NCACC), joined NCACC 1st Vice President Ronnie Smith of Martin County in attending the conference.

“It was exciting to learn more about how opportunity zones incentivize private investors to invest in impoverished and under-served communities,” said Williams. “I look forward to further exploring how this program can be leveraged to benefit Brunswick County and other North Carolina counties.”

Martin County Commissioner Ronnie Smith & Brunswick County Commissioner Frank Williams

President Donald J. Trump delivered remarks at the conference, stating that the Opportunity Zones provision is “really a crucial part of our new tax law to help low-income Americans.”

According to the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Opportunity Zones website, the Opportunity Zones Program (Sec. 13823) provides tax incentives for qualified investors to re-invest unrealized capital gains into low-income communities throughout the state, and across the country. Low-income census tracks are areas where the poverty rate is 20% or greater and/or family income is less than 80% of the area’s median income. Investments made by qualified entities known as Opportunity Funds into certified Opportunity Zones will receive three key federal tax incentives to encourage investment in low-income communities, including temporary tax deferral for capital gains reinvested in an Opportunity Fund, step-up in basis for capital gains reinvested in an Opportunity Fund and permanent exclusion from taxable income of long-term capital gains.

According to a release from the White House, Opportunity Zones are a critical part of President Trump’s efforts to bring economic opportunity to communities that have been left behind. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) included a new Opportunity Zones incentive designed to bring investment to struggling communities across the country. Over 8,700 communities in all 50 states, D.C. and five U.S. territories have been designated as Opportunity Zones. State, local, tribal, and community leaders have championed Opportunity Zones and today’s conference sought to highlight and explore further opportunities to maximize investment and development.

President Donald J. Trump addresses his remarks Wednesday, April 17, 2019, at the Opportunity Zone Conference with state, local, tribal and community leaders in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

According to a release from the White House, the following individuals were scheduled to attend the conference:

The White House
President Donald J. Trump
Brooke Rollins, Assistant to the President for Strategic Initiatives
Larry Kudlow, Assistant to the President & Director, National Economic Council
Joe Grogan, Assistant to the President & Director, Domestic Policy Council
Kevin Hassett, Assistant to the President & Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers
Doug Hoelscher, Deputy Assistant to the President & Director, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
Tim Pataki, Deputy Assistant to the President & Director, Office of Public Liaison
Ja’Ron Smith, Deputy Assistant to the President, Office of American Innovation
Francis Brooke, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, National Economic Council
Ben Hobbs, Special Assistant to the President, Domestic Policy Council
Rosemary Lahasky, Special Assistant to the President & Director of Domestic Issues, Office of Economic Initiatives & Entrepreneurship
James Redstone, Special Assistant to the President, Domestic Policy Council
William Crozer, Special Assistant to the President & Deputy Director, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
Nic Pottebaum, Special Assistant to the President & Deputy Director, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
Scott Turner, Executive Director, White House Opportunity & Revitalization Council

Trump Administration
Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Department of the Treasury
Secretary Ben Carson, Department of Housing and Urban Development
Michael Faulkender, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy, Department of the Treasury
Mark Cruz, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Policy and Economic Development, Department of the Interior
Laura Peter, Deputy Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the U.S. Patent and Trade Office
Scott Stump, Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education, Department of Education
Molly Conway, Deputy Chief of Staff and Acting Assistant Secretary, Employment and Training Administration, Department of Labor
Bette Brand, Administrator for Rural Business Service, Department of Agriculture
Bill Manger, Associate Administrator, Office of Capital Access, Small Business Administration, Small Business Association
Dan Kowalski, Counselor to the Secretary, Department of the Treasury
Michael Costigan, Senior Advisor, Office of the Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice
McKenzie Snow, Special Assistant and Policy Advisor, Department of Education
Alfonso Costa, Deputy Chief of Staff, Department of Housing and Urban Development
Loren Smith, Senior Advisor, Office of the Undersecretary for Policy, Department of Transportation, Department of Transportation
Bill Manger, Associate Administrator, Office of Capital Access, Small Business Administration, Small Business Association

State, Local, Tribal, & Community Leaders
Scott Andes, Program Director, City Innovation Ecosystems, National League of Cities
Joseph Baker, Mayor of Dacono, Colorado
Travis Blosser, Deputy Executive Director, West Virginia Municipal League
Timothy Blute, Director of National Governors Association Future, National Governors Association
David Bornn, Chief Counsel, Office of Governor Albert Bryan, U.S. Virgin Islands
David Bowman, Mayor of Montrose, Colorado
Ruby Brabo, Supervisor, King George County, Virginia
Bruce Bracker, Vice Chairman, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
Edward Brady, Deputy Secretary, Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development
Sharon Carney, Economic Strategy Director, Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development, Washington, D.C.
Taylor Caswell, Commissioner, New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs
Ginger Chinn, Managing Director of Urban & Rural Business Services, Office of Economic Development
Henry Colvin, Mayor of Fayetteville, North Carolina
Jill Connors, Economic Development Director, Dubuque, Iowa
Tony Copeland, North Carolina Secretary of Commerce, North Carolina
Daniel Corona, Mayor of West Wendover, Nevada
Daria Daniel, Associate Legislative Director for Community, Economic and Workforce Development, National Association of Counties
Samuel DeMarco, Councilman, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
Marc DeMott, Commissioner, Colquitt County, Georgia
Beverly Donovan, Economic Development Director, Town of Derry, New Hampshire
Andrew Dorsett, Town Manager, Town of Littleton, New Hampshire
George Endicott, Mayor of Redmond, Oregon
Terrence Evans, Councilman, Gila River Indian Community
Rick Figueroa, Commissioner, Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, Texas
George Flaggs, Mayor of Vicksburg, Mississippi
Jennifer Fletcher, Deputy Secretary, South Carolina Department of Commerce
Brian Foster, Alderman, Savannah, Georgia
Paul Freitas, Town Administrator, Plymouth, New Hampshire
Wesley Henderson, Executive Director, Nevada League of Cities and Municipalities
State Representative Joshua Higginbotham, West Virginia
Juanzena Johnson, Executive Director, National Black Caucus of State Legislators
Graham Knaus, Executive Director, California State Association of Counties
David Kooris, Deputy Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development,
Jeff Kraft, Director, Business Funding & Incentives, Colorado Economic Development and International Trade
KV Kumar, National Chair & CEO, Indian American Chamber of Commerce
State Senator Daniel Laughlin, Pennsylvania
Tamika Ledbetter, Commissioner, Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development
Robert Legare, Mayor of Aurora, Colorado
Joshua Levy, Mayor of Hollywood, Florida
Stephen Lewis, Governor, Gila River Indian Community
Forrest McDaniel, Commissioner, Rome, Georgia
Timothy McDonough, Mayor of Hope Township, New Jersey
Elijah McIntosh, Secretary of the Nation & Commerce, Muscogee Nation
Carlos Mendez, Mayor of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
Melanie Mendiola, Administrator of Guam Economic Development Authority
Miles Menetrey, Supervisor, Mariposa County, California
Gregory Mengarelli, Mayor of Prescott, Arizona
Kunal Merchant, President, CalOZ
Daffney Moore, City Manager, East St. Louis, Illinois
Bonnie Moore, Director of Community Development, City of Shreveport, Louisiana
Cory Noonan, Commissioner, Allen County, Ohio
Timothy Nuvangyaoma, Chairman, Hopi Tribe
Malachi O’Brien, Pastor and Executive Team Member, One Cry
Jennifer Olson, Administrator of the Community Development Division, Montana Department of Commerce
James Parks, Supervisor, Coconino County, Arizona
Russell Paul, Mayor of Sandy Springs, Georgia
Ramiro Pena, Senior Pastor, Christ the King Baptist Church
Matt Peters, Assistant Director, Ohio Development Services Agency
Chad Peterson, Vice Chairman, Cass County, North Dakota
William Pikolycky, Mayor of Woodbine, New Jersey
Rurico Pintado, Mayor of Bayamon, Puerto Rico
Mike Preston, Executive Director, Arkansas Economic Development Commission
Lamont Price, Director, Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development
Stefan Pryor, Director, Rhode Island Department of Commerce
Cassidy Rasnick, Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Virginia Department of Commerce and Trade
Fred Reeves, Mayor of Port Gibson, Mississippi
Keith Richel, Mayor of Silt, Colorado
Ramon Rivera, Mayor, Baymon, Puerto Rico
Nicole Ryf, Director of Business & Community Development, Texas Department of Economic Development & Tourism
Ben Seigel, Baltimore Opportunity Zones Coordinator, Baltimore Development Corporation
Adrian Servetnick, Deputy Director of Policy and Strategy, Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Fuad Seweiss, Executive Director, Santa Ana Public Works
John Sikes, Chairman, Toombs County, Georgia
Sara Smallwood Cocke, Director of Public Policy, Choctaw Nation
Ronnie Smith, Vice President, North Carolina Association of County Commissioners
Rex Steninger, Commissioner, Elko County, Nevada
Stan Summers, Commissioner, Box Elder County, Utah
Martin Thomas Jr., Vice Mayor of Norfolk, Virginia
Steven Tramell, Mayor of West Point, Georgia
Karen Weaver, Mayor of Flint, Michigan
Colin Wellenkamp, Executive Director, Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative
Paula White, Pastor, New Destiny Christian Church
Majority Leader Terry Wilbur, Oswego County Legislature, New York
Vince Williams, Mayor of Union City, Georgia
Frank Williams, Commissioner, Brunswick County, North Carolina

LINKS:

NCDOT Holding Open Houses, Public Hearings for Future Cape Fear Crossing

[April 22, 2019] — The N.C. Department of Transportation will hold two open houses and public hearings next week concerning a major project in eastern North Carolina.

The Cape Fear Crossing is an approximately 9.5-mile proposed road and high-level bridge over the Cape Fear River that would help improve traffic flow and enhance freight movements from U.S. 17 and Interstate 140 in Brunswick County to U.S. 421 near the Port of Wilmington in southern New Hanover County.

U.S. 17 serves as one of the primary entry points into Wilmington from the west, and the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization determined that an additional crossing is needed to alleviate congestion on the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge (U.S. 76/U.S. 421/ U.S. 17 Business).

Maps displaying the location and design of the project are available on the project website or the NCDOT public meetings website.

The public is invited to the open houses and hearings at the following times and locations:

Monday, April 29
John T. Hoggard High School Cafeteria
4305 Shipyard Boulevard, Wilmington
Open House: 5 – 6:30 p.m., Hearing: 7 p.m.

Tuesday, April 30
North Brunswick High School Gym
114 Scorpion Drive, Leland
Open House: 5 – 6:30 p.m., Hearing: 7 p.m.

NCDOT representatives will be available at the open houses to answer questions and receive comments regarding the proposed project. The opportunity to provide verbal comments and/or submit written comments and questions will be provided. The public may attend at any time during the above hours. Please note that the same information will be presented at both meetings.

The formal presentations will consist of an explanation of the location of the six detailed study alternatives, right of way and relocation requirements and procedures. The public will have the opportunity to comment. The presentation and comments will be recorded, and a written transcript will be prepared.

If you can’t attend the meeting, NCDOT will live-stream the public hearing on its Facebook page. Questions and comments entered into the Facebook post during the event will not be answered or be entered into the record.

Comments may also be submitted electronically using the project’s website or NCDOT’s online engagement portal. Comments may be submitted through May 16, 2019.

NCDOT, in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), has approved the Cape Fear Crossing Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The DEIS contains a summary of the purpose and need of the project and the impacts associated with the various route locations under consideration. With the DEIS now available to the public, the formal review period has begun. The open houses and hearings provide an opportunity for the public to make formal comments that will be included in the project record.  These comments will be considered in the selection of the Preferred Alternative for the project.

Copies of the DEIS and maps showing the six detailed study alternatives are available for review at the following locations, through May 16th:

  • NCDOT—Division 3 Office, 5501 Barbados Boulevard, Castle Hayne
  • Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Office, 305 Chestnut Street, Wilmington
  • Leland Town Hall, 102 Town Hall Drive, Leland

Copies of the DEIS are also available for review at the following locations, through May 16th:

  • State Library of North Carolina, 109 East Jones Street, Raleigh
  • New Hanover County Public Library, Main Campus, 201 Chestnut Street, Wilmington
  • Northeast Regional Library, 1241 Military Cutoff Road, Wilmington
  • Leland Library, 487 Village Road NE, Leland
  • New Hanover County Public Library, Myrtle Grove, 5155 S. College Road, Wilmington
  • Brunswick County Library, 109 W Moore Street, Southport

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wilmington District, will issue a public notice describing the ongoing process in choosing the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA) for the subject project, under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. That public notice is available online.

For the open house and public hearing events, NCDOT will provide auxiliary aids and services under the Americans with Disabilities Act for disabled persons who want to participate in these meetings. Anyone requiring special services should contact Robbins as early as possible so that arrangements can be made. Interpretive services will be provided at each meeting.

Those who speak Spanish and do not speak English, or have a limited ability to read, speak or understand English, may receive interpretive services upon request prior to the hearing by calling 1-800-481-6494.

Charters of Freedom & Foundation Forward: Meaningful Civic Education

Foundation Forward: Meaningful Civic Education – Final – 7 Minutes from Andrew on Vimeo.

Frank’s Bracket Challenge 2019

March Madness is almost here, and it’s time to sign up for Frank’s Bracket Challenge 2019. As always, the only prize is bragging rights. Sign up now, and once the field is set be sure to complete your brackets before the start of NCAA Tournament Play next week. Good luck!

Click here to sign up (you will need a free Yahoo! account to participate).

Too Much Blue!

Mar. 14, 2019 — Even though the ACC Tournament is underway, this headline has nothing to do with basketball (a fact that might surprise those who know that I bleed N.C. State red-and-white). 

A little over a week ago, I few into Wilmington International Airport for the first time since Hurricane Florence. Our flight landed mid-afternoon in the midst of clear skies. As we made our descent into ILM, I was able to see far too many blue tarps still positioned atop homes in Wilmington. One neighorhood looked like every home still had a tarp — nearly six months after Florence ravaged southeastern North Carolina.

While life has returned to normal for many of us, we should not forget those who are still struggling to recover from last year’s unwelcome tropical visitor.

Cape Fear Rural Planning Organization Transportation Advisory Committee Elects 2019 Officers

(Marc. 4, 2019) — The Cape Fear Rural Transportation Planning Organization (RPO) Transportation Advisory Committee (RTAC) elected officers for 2019 at its February 22 meeting.  Brunswick County Commissioner Frank Williams was unanimously re-elected Chair and Whiteville Mayor Terry Mann was unanimously re-elected Vice Chair. Williams and Mann were first elected chair and vice chair in January 2014.

The Cape Fear RPO covers Brunswick, Columbus and Pender Counties and serves as the intergovernmental organization for local elected officials, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and residents of the region to work cooperatively to address rural transportation issues.  The Rural Transportation Advisory Committee (RTAC) is the RPO’s advisory board and is comprised of elected officials from Brunswick, Columbus and Pender Counties.

“Serving as RTAC Chair for the past five years has underscored the importance of having a strong voice for rural transportation in southeastern North Carolina,” said Williams.  “As areas in our state west of I-95 become increasingly urbanized, it is important for those of us who live in eastern North Carolina to make our voices heard.  I look forward to continuing to work with Vice Chairman Mann, the other members of the committee, staff, elected leaders in the communities we represent and the NCDOT to ensure that our rural transportation needs and priorities are heard.”

According to the N.C. Department of Transportation, in 2000 the State of North Carolina recognized the need for more coordinated transportation planning in rural North Carolina areas not within a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) by enacting Chapter 136, Article 17, Section 136-210-213 of the General Statutes. This provided for the development of Rural Transportation Planning Organizations (RPOs). There are 18 Rural Planning Organizations in the State.

Although organized and tasked in a manner very similar to MPO’s, RPOs are grounded in state law rather than federal, and are intended to address and improve rural area transportation planning processes. RPOs assist the North Carolina Department of Transportation by carrying the following four core duties:

  • Develop, in cooperation with the NCDOT, comprehensive transportation plans.
  • Provide a forum for public participation in the transportation planning process.
  • Develop and prioritize suggestions for projects that the organization believes should be included in the State’s Transportation Improvement Program.
  • Provide transportation-related information to local governments and other interested organizations and persons.

Administrative support for the Cape Fear RPO is provided by the Cape Fear Council of Governments (COG).

Commissioner Williams addresses home school students

Brunswick County Commissioner Frank Williams spoke to a group of home school students that are part of the Coastal Christian Co-op on Tuesday, Feb. 5. The co-op, which includes students from Brunswick County and other neighboring counties, meets at Scotts Hill Baptist Church.

Information on the Cape Fear Crossing Project

There has been a great deal of recent discussion on the proposed routes for the Cape Fear Crossing project.

As a point of historical reference, discussion of a southern loop of this type began in 1993, and discussion of this current project began in one form or another in 1999. The official NCDOT project page on the project can be found here.

The detailed project maps outlining the alternative routes can be viewed here.

On May 31, 2017, the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO) Board voted to support alternatives MA and/or NA, which are the two southernmost alternatives; that resolution can be viewed here.

Your Brunswick County representatives on the WMPO have spoken up multiple times on the importance of adopting southern routes that avoid the heart of major residential neighborhoods like Brunswick Forest and Mallory Creek and minimize and avoid impacts to Stoney Creek and Snee Farm.

Presentations from District 5 Leadership Forum on Water, Wastewater Expansion Projects

On Jan. 15, I partnered with the North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce to hold our latest District 5 Leadership Forum, which featured an update on on Brunswick County Public Utilities’ advanced water treatment, water plant expansion and sewer plant expansion.

The presentations from that event are linked below:

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