Court rules access to Duck’s beach is private – Reuters


An opinion from the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued on April 6 indicates that access to Duck’s private beach is private and not open to the public.

The case arose after Robert E. Hovey was taken into custody at Seabreeze Drive on May 29, 2019 and charged with second degree trespassing. Hovey maintained that access to the beach was deeded to the public years ago and the public was allowed free access. The Sand Dollar Shores Homeowners Association, Inc. disputed this claim and said it was private property for the sole use of the owners. A video of the incident of the arrest was shared on social media, attracting considerable attention.

Court documents show Sand Dollar Shores is a 42-lot residential development along Seabreeze Drive and registered with the Dare County Deeds Registry in 1981. Sand Dollar Shores, Inc., was formed nine years later and the City of Duck, which includes Sand Dollar Shores, incorporated May 1, 2002.

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After Hovey and his wife, Tanya, bought a house across the highway from Sand Dollar Shores in 2002, they began renting it out on a weekly basis during the summer months and started a business. rental of beach equipment to serve their residential tenants and other vacationers. , said the court documents, which also stated that the Hoveys and their clients used the Sand Dollar Shores pedestrian walkway to get to the beach.

In April 2016, an attorney for Sand Dollar Shores, Inc. wrote a letter to the Hoveys informing them, among other things, that the easement was for use by members of Sand Dollar Shores, Inc. only.

The Hoveys argued that the flat map dedicating “all roads, lanes, walks, parks and other sites to public or private use” made the easement open to the public and continue to use it.

A statement released by the City of Duck shortly after the arrest explained that “The City of Duck does not restrict an individual’s use of the public beach, but it does not own or maintain any beach access within the town. As accesses are privately owned and maintained, the City cannot grant permission to use them and unauthorized use may be considered trespassing as it would be with any other private property. »

In February 2020, the Hoveys prevailed in superior court with a ruling that accesses from Sand Dollar Shores beach to the Atlantic Ocean had indeed been designated as open for public use.

The decision was consistent with others in North Carolina, where courts have always ruled beaches to be public. However, by the time Duck was incorporated in 2002, all beachfront properties other than the United States Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Center had already been classified as private property. Most of Duck’s beach access was located in housing estates governed and maintained by homeowner associations.

The HOA appealed the Superior Court’s decision, and in an 18-page opinion, the Court of Appeal ruled that because a plot plan did not show an unequivocal intention to enshrine the walkway easement for public use, the trial court had erred in granting summary judgment for the Hoveys.

The April 6 notice states that although the flat map indicates the intention to dedicate “all roads, lanes, walks, parks and other sites to public or private use as indicated”, the document does not contain any note dedicating the easement for public use.

It was also noted that while the public has the right to walk on the beach, wade in the ocean, and otherwise use natural resources, the boundaries of those properties, the land between the beach, and public streets and highways belong to private landowners and the court must respect private property rights under the law. And, while the Hoveys aren’t barred from the beach, they could negotiate access or, failing that, drive to neighboring municipalities or any unincorporated areas of the county to the north and south. south that maintain public accesses to the beach, the document says.

For various stated reasons, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s judgment and sent it back to the lower court with directions to enter summary judgment for Sand Dollar Shores Homeowners Association, Inc.



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