Duck seeks to address access questions after noisy arrest
North Carolina - The town of Duck is caught in the middle of a social media uproar after the arrest of a local business owner seeking to put a spotlight on the lack of public beach access.
While the beach is considered public, access in Duck is limited to private property and paths controlled and owned by homeowners associations.
The town has issued a statement explaining the legal reasons why.
Over the years, courts have upheld the right of the public to use the dry sand beach from the dune line to the water. But getting to the beach is another matter in areas like Duck and Southern Shores unless you own or rent a house with private access.
Other towns have created accesses and parking with the help of state grants under an amendment to the Coastal Area Management Act in 1981. But these days, that would mean a town could have to pay millions for oceanfront land, which would likely meet stiff resistance from property owners who would foot the bill with local taxes even if any were available.
Otherwise, private property owners would have to grant permission.
A video of a confrontation recently at Seabreeze Drive in Duck drew considerable attention after it was posted on social media.
“On Wednesday, May 29, at approximately 8:00 a.m. Robert E. Hovey was taken into custody and charged with second-degree trespass (N.C.G.S. Section 14-159.13) in the location of Seabreeze Drive,” the town’s statement said.
“This charge is comprised of the following: Without permission, entering or remaining on someone else’s property after being notified not to enter or remain there by the owner, a lawful occupant, or other authorized person; or where there is a notice posted informing intruders not to enter the property.”
In a Facebook post, Hovey argued that the path had been deeded to the public in 1981, before the town was incorporated. Dare County property records indicate that the concrete walkway path straddles two properties at the end of Seabreeze Drive.
STATEMENT REGARDING TOWN OF DUCK BEACH ACCESS, MAY 29, 2019
On Wednesday, May 29, at approximately 8:00 a.m., Mr. Robert E. Hovey was taken into custody and charged with second-degree trespass (N.C.G.S. Section 14-159.13) in the location of Seabreeze Drive. This charge is comprised of the following: Without permission, entering or remaining on someone else’s property after being notified not to enter or remain there by the owner, a lawful occupant, or other authorized person; or where there is a notice posted informing intruders not to enter the property.
The beach access located at the end of Seabreeze Drive is a private access owned and maintained by the Sand Dollar Shores HOA. The charge and arrest were the culmination of a long-standing dispute between Mr. Hovey and the property owners of the Sand Dollar Shores subdivision. After repeated attempts by the Town of Duck Police Department to pursue a peaceful resolution, officers on the scene today acted to diffuse a situation that was escalating.
To be clear, in accordance with the North Carolina public trust and state statutes, the beaches in Duck are public. The Town of Duck does not restrict an individual’s use of the public beach, but it does not own or maintain any beach access locations in the town. Because the accesses are privately owned and maintained, the Town cannot grant permission for their use and unauthorized use could be deemed trespass as it would with any other private property. The Town does not monitor any beach access locations with the intent to discern between authorized and unauthorized users of a private beach access. The Town will respond to complaints of use by unauthorized individuals and these are handled in conformity with other simple trespass complaints.
Beach access locations in Duck, whether on easements or individual property parcels, are available to Duck residents, renters, and their guests through private accesses maintained by neighborhood homeowners’ associations (HOA). These accesses are not available to the general public as they are not owned or maintained by the Town of Duck.
When staying in Duck, your rental company or your neighborhood’s HOA can provide you information on the beach access for your rental property. When purchasing a home in Duck, work with your real estate agent to ensure you understand your HOA covenants and beach access rules.