Atlantic Beach

NC - Deeds filed for Atlantic Beach dunes lead to access dispute

ATLANTIC BEACH – Numerous oceanfront property owners here are banding together in a developing legal dispute over who owns the dry sand beach in front of their houses. An attorney representing the owners said last week that he hopes the state attorney general will intervene to protect the public’s rights.

The dispute arose last month after a Cape Carteret resident, who also has an apparently dormant real estate business website for a firm in Wilson, notified the beachfront property owners and others that he now owns the dunes and that their continued access to the beach amounts to trespassing.

James Anthony Bunn in April registered quitclaim deeds with the county for more than a dozen parcels in Atlantic Beach south, or oceanward, of beach houses and condominiums to the east and west of the boardwalk at the former amusement circle. Bunn’s mailing address is 102 Hunting Bay Drive, Cape Carteret, according to county records. Last year, he also registered deeds on parcels in Down East Carteret County.

All show sales prices of zero dollars or minimal exchanges, such as $10 in consideration, with no county revenue stamps paid. Attorneys who prepared the deeds noted that no title work was requested or performed.

Unlike warranty deeds, quitclaim deeds in North Carolina carry no guarantee of title.

Some of the individual oceanfront parcels that Bunn claims to own front multiple beach houses — one as many as five separately owned homesites.

Attorney Rob Wheatly of Beaufort is representing some of the Atlantic Beach property owners whom Bunn had notified of his claim of ownership.

“First, he started by sending out a statement. I don’t know if he sent it to everybody, I know that a couple of people showed me what they had. He wanted them to sign some agreement with him, sort of like a lease where they would be able to continue to go on about the property. He was not going to interfere with their use if they in fact signed that paper. The people we talked to, we told them not to sign it for various legal reasons,” Wheatly told Coastal Review Friday.

Wheatly said that because nobody would sign the agreement, Bunn had since been “stepping it up” to the point where he had posted “no trespassing” signs and was telling people who were accessing the beach that they were trespassing.

Oceanfront property owners told Coastal Review that Bunn was wearing a gun on his hip during their interactions with him. Some described cordial conversations, but others said Bunn acted in an intimidating or threatening manner, allegedly calling one homeowner a “chickenshit,” and that his going armed on the public beach,in the presence of families with children, was out of line.

Coastal Review has obtained two police incident/investigation reports dated April 18 and April 27 involving “verbal disputes” between Bunn and other individuals. Some information in the police reports was redacted.

Bunn, when reached for comment, said his intention in claiming ownership was for his “quiet, personal enjoyment.” He said he had tried unsuccessfully to work with the oceanfront property owners. Bunn then said he didn’t want to answer Coastal Review’s questions and hung up. He then called back shortly after and agreed to answer questions but only by email.

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