Duck Council defers action on public beach access

By on August 8, 2019

Sea Breeze Drive Access in Duck. Is the access private as the Sand Dollar Shores HOA asserts or is it public according to Bob Hovey?

Several months after a viral video turned the subject into a hot-button issue, the Duck Town Council has decided to defer further discussions about public beach access in the town until next spring, when the municipality expects to finalize its Coastal Area Management Act Land Use Plan (LUP) update.

After considering three options offered by Town Manager Chris Layton at the Aug. 7 Town Council meeting, members agreed to use the LUP as a starting point for further investigation. The document serves as the community’s “blueprint for growth” and is expected to address public water access.

The lack of public beach access became a focal point of debate in late May when local resident and business owner Bob Hovey, a longtime advocate of public beach access, was arrested for trespassing on a privately-owned beach access in the Sand Dollar Shores subdivision.

Owner of Duck Village Outfitters, Hovey sparked a social media firestorm by posting a video of the heated altercation with the neighborhood’s Homeowner’s Association (HOA) members. He also launched a fundraising campaign that raised more than $13,000 toward efforts to secure public beach access in the municipality.

In an Aug. 8 interview with the Voice, Hovey said he plans to file a lawsuit “within days” against the Sand Dollar Shores Homeowner’s Association and the Town of Duck. He 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.

Town officials, however, have maintained that all the oceanfront property in Duck except for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility, had been previously platted as private property before the town was even incorporated.

Hovey also said that his court appearance for the May 29 trespassing charge had been postponed until October, and that he intends to plead not guilty.

Speaking at the Aug. 7 meeting, Mayor Don Kingston suggested to fellow council members that they not rush to address the public access issue.

“I think we should do this at our pace,” he said. “Basically, I don’t see a sense of urgency. We are reacting to, yes, some public comments and some very negative social media. But at the same time, we are not coming at this from a standpoint of a demand by our residents and non-resident property owners.”

Kingston also acknowledged the upcoming November election. “We have the potential of change in council in December and may have new members sitting up here who have different thoughts. There are also legal proceeding right now pending [because of trespassing episode]. Not that we are involved, but there are new proceedings out there.” There is a crowded field of nine candidates vying for Duck’s five council seats in the fall elections.

During the Aug. 7 meeting, Layton provided three options for address beach access while noting that using the LUP as a starting point was “the simplest option using the existing process that is already in place.”

One option, Layton said, would be to direct staff to develop a comprehensive overview of the current status of ocean public access in Duck, including limitations and opportunities, and have staff present this document at a future meeting. Council members acknowledged that the option had merit and would likely be utilized as they moved through the process.

Members, however, were not receptive to another option that included hiring a facilitator for $12,000 to set the groundwork and oversee a public meeting that involved all the stakeholders. “I certainly disagree with paying for a facilitator at this point in time,” stated Kingston. “We are already paying for them to facilitate our Land Use Plan.”

As part of the LUP update process, the town also launched a community survey that, among other issues, asks respondents for input on the importance of public water access to the ocean and sound. The LUP, last updated in 2005, is used to guide development and public investment of resources.


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  • Czarina

    The Mayor doesn’t see the urgency, even though the arrest was in May. Hm-m-m….

    Friday, Aug 9 @ 7:30 am
  • Steve

    It’s a stalling tactic until new board members are in place.

    Friday, Aug 9 @ 12:55 pm
  • Sandy

    Why shouldn’t trespassers be arrested and charged? Everyone commenting on this has private property rights. What makes you think others don’t?

    Friday, Aug 16 @ 12:08 pm
  • gsurf123

    Must be nice to propose spending $12,000 of taxpayer money for a facilitator. If there ever was a case for waste, fraud and abuse a facilitator would be it.

    The reality is all of the oceanfront in Duck is private and will never be public. The town would have to purchase a parcel from the highway to the ocean that is not part of an HOA covered neighborhood which is probably not even possible anymore. Many may not like it, but we do have property ownership rights in the US to prevent people from trespassing as the individual did.

    The only chance something like this could happen is if it was made a requirement in order to get their next allotment of sand for re-nourishment of their public beaches.

    Friday, Aug 9 @ 10:15 am
  • Steve

    Deeded access does not require public property or purchasing property.

    Friday, Aug 9 @ 12:54 pm
  • Facts Matter

    The lack of public beach access became a focal point of debate in late May when local resident and business owner Bob Hovey, a longtime advocate of public beach access, was arrested for trespassing on a privately-owned beach access in the Sand Dollar Shores subdivision.

    Wasn’t this a beach access that is deeded to the public???? This doesn’t seem entirely accurate.

    Friday, Aug 9 @ 12:09 pm
  • Steve

    Not deeded to the public, deeded to those that live in that sub-division and the one across from the highway. There is no public parking or public access. Mr. Hovey live there, therefore he has deeded access.

    Sunday, Aug 11 @ 6:55 am
  • OBXSurfer

    No, the subdivision Mr. Hovey lives in is not the same Association nor was developed under the same covenants as the one which has beach access. He nor his subdivision has deeded access.

    Tuesday, Aug 13 @ 10:59 am
  • PLF supporter

    No. It was not deeded to the public. Hovey filed a similar lawsuit in 2016 and it was involuntarily dismissed in Dare County Superior Court in 2017 due to lack of merit. This is all public record. According to NC law, because of the involuntary dismissal (or even with a voluntary dismissal because the one year time limit has expired), Hovey can’t file another lawsuit against the same HOA claiming the same thing.,_Rule_41.pdf

    Tuesday, Aug 13 @ 6:36 pm
  • S. hanes

    The NC Public Trust doctrine allows access. Seems clear to me.

    Friday, Aug 9 @ 1:56 pm
  • surf123

    You can use the beach, but you cannot trespass through private property to do so. This is going nowhere unless Duck buys enough private property to gain highway to ocean access.

    Monday, Aug 12 @ 4:28 pm
  • roberta

    there is this one principle I have seen done, all private property owners have a right to access their property even if it means building a driveway or road way into another yard, similar to eminent domain, so if one has a right to use the beach thus they have right to access via road, path parking lot which all can use including the owners of properties next to it or on it. this is not about property rights it is about business if you can own access people are forced at higher prices to use your motels, hotels etc. hence this is a money grab. I think it is pathetic that this is even a issue. in fact this place I own now has a road through my property, I was never given any compensation not that I care, but my property goes across the street, do you see me balling or crying? this road is access road for everyone not just me.

    Friday, Aug 9 @ 3:15 pm
  • David

    Should be no such thing as “private” beach access to the ocean. Beach access for all.

    Friday, Aug 9 @ 3:33 pm
  • BubbaOBX

    Now THIS is a perfect example of kicking it down the street!

    Saturday, Aug 10 @ 7:41 am
  • Sean Mulligan

    No public access no subsidizing there beach nourishment.The Duck research pier should allow access like they did for years before 911.

    Monday, Aug 12 @ 8:48 am
  • Stephen Taylor

    This has been going on for YEARS and the Town Of Duck keeps sweeping it under the sand. IT IS a problem that needs to be solved and not ” well let’s not get in a rush. Maybe a NEW town council would address the situation. November is close!!

    Monday, Aug 12 @ 10:10 pm