Seagull Drive legal saga finally ends with a $1.5 million deal

By on March 22, 2015

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The owners had started some repairs. (Rob Morris)

Five years after the town declared them public nuisances, six dilapidated houses in South Nags Head will finally be torn down.

Under a settlement with a representative of the owners, Nags Head has agreed to buy them for $1.5 million, the town said in a statement Friday.

Roc Sansotta sued the town in 2010 after Nags Head declared the row of houses on Seagull Drive an obstruction to public access and emergency vehicles.

A storm in 2009 heavily damaged the houses and scattered concrete septic tanks, pipes, wires and lumber across the beach.

During storms and high tides, the ocean swept under the houses until beach nourishment offered some promise that they could be salvaged. But the ocean is once again encroaching on the structures because Great Lakes Dredge and Dock had to work around them while pumping sand onto the beach in the summer of 2011.

More than two dozen houses in South Hags Head were determined to be hazards blocking the public’s right of way after the 2009 storm. Since then, beach nourishment has made some of the houses usable again while others have been repaired, moved or torn down.

A court ruling in 2012 found that the state, not the town, had jurisdiction over the right-of-way between the bottom of the dune line and the ocean, negating the public nuisance declaration.

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The ocean is again encroaching on the houses. (Rob Morris)

Legal rulings had since allowed repairs on the Seagull Drive houses, and all were issued building permits by the town in 2013 and 2014. Sansotta said late last year that he had started to remove mold and repair decks on some of the houses.

“Our Board feels that settling these lawsuits at this time is in the best interest of the town,” Mayor Bob Edwards said in the statement. “If this had gone to a jury trial, we may have faced potential liability for plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs, along with any damages the jury may have awarded.”

The plaintiffs agreed to release all claims against the town, and the town agreed not to appeal from the trial court’s decision to dismiss the Town’s civil penalties claim. All parties deny any actual liability and none admits to any kind of fault or violations of law, the statement said.

In a settlement earlier this month, the town agreed to give Matthew Toloczko $200,000 and a nearby lot worth $3,500 that can be used as a drain field for the septic system of the house, which is on the north end of the remaining row of properties.



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