North Carolina: Hovey files lawsuit over Duck beach access
Three months after his confrontation with homeowners over beach access in Duck went viral, Bob Hovey, and his wife Tanya, have filed a complaint in Dare County Superior Court against the Sand Dollar Shores Homeowners’ Association (HOA) and the Town of Duck over their right to use the Sea Breeze beach access in that neighborhood.
The Aug. 26 complaint contends that the recorded subdivision plat illustrates that the roads and easements in that neighborhood were dedicated to the public by the owner in 1981 and accepted by the Dare County Board of Commissioners, and that the HOA was “without authority to declare” the access as “common area” for the use of its members in 2015.
The Hoveys also argued in the complaint that the town “has an affirmative duty to protect the public’s right to use said easement instead of enforcing the HOA’s claimed right of dedication.”
The access has long been a bone of contention between the HOA and the Hoveys, who have a home in the adjacent Osprey Ridge neighborhood on the west side of NC 12. Most recently, it was the scene of a May 29 confrontation between Bob Hovey and several HOA members that ended in Hovey’s arrest by Duck police for allegedly trespassing on private property.
Hovey, the owner of Duck Village Outfitters, posted a video of that altercation that attracted considerable attention and prompted a heated online debate about the lack of public beach access in the town. Duck officials have maintained throughout the controversy that the municipality doesn’t own or maintain any beach access locations, nor can it grant permission for their use.
The Duck Town Council has been slow to weigh in on the issue, deciding at its Aug. 7 meeting that it would wait until spring in order to consider public water access and community input on the matter during the process of developing its Coastal Area Management Act Land Use Plan.
The Hoveys have asserted that the most direct pedestrian route from their property in Osprey Ridge to the ocean has been to use the Sea Breeze Drive beach access and that it was used regularly by themselves and their renters in the past. That is until they and other property owners in Osprey Ridge received a letter in 2016 from attorneys representing the Sand Dollar Shores HOA.
“In order to access and use these amenities, you must be a dues-paying member or their guests,” the 2016 letter read. “We must urge you to make it clearly known to your tenants that they are not to use the beach access within Sand Dollar Shores.” The notification also stated that non-members were subject to “legal action” if they attempted to use the access.
The Aug. 26 complaint contends that as a result of that letter, the Hoveys’ rental management company, Brindley Beach, terminated its contract with them “and refused to include the Hovey residence in their rental management program for the 2016 summer rental season resulting in lost rental income.”
However, Hovey and others continued to use the access until Hovey’s arrest on May 29.
Following his arrest, Hovey launched a fundraising campaign that raised more than $13,000 toward legal efforts to secure public beach access in the municipality. Hovey has contended in the past that at least three of the beach accesses in Duck were deeded to the public long before the town was incorporated and remain in the public trust.
This isn’t the first time Hovey has taken his case to court. In 2017, he argued similar points in a complaint that was ultimately dismissed without prejudice. However, the issue was never resolved. As for his second-degree trespassing charge, Hovey’s court appearance has been postponed until October. He says he intends to plead not guilty to the charge.
Attorneys representing Sand Dollar Shores HOA and Hovey could not be reached as of press time. Duck Public Relations Director Christian Legner declined to comment on Hovey’s Aug. 26 complaint.