Hovey files lawsuit over Duck beach access

By on August 28, 2019

Bob Hovey during his video confrontation over 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.

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  • A native

    Duck was at it’s best in the 80s. It was quaint back then now it’s just like the Jersey shore in the summer. Except for the fact that you can actually go to the beach in Jersey

    Wednesday, Aug 28 @ 8:41 pm
  • CCJJ

    With very few exceptions the entire New Jersey coast is easily accessible for all. Virtually every beach front street end has public access in the entire state. The only exception I can think of is a small area near New York where there are private stairways yet even in that area about every 1/4 mile there is a public access. While parking cars can be an issue in some places access to those who walk or bike to the beach is wide open virtually everywhere.

    Friday, Aug 30 @ 7:02 am
  • MacG

    You know you have to pay to go in the beach in Nj, right?

    Friday, Aug 30 @ 10:43 am
  • surf123

    You do not have to in Wildwood and in the other portions I have been to you cannot enter the beach where ever you see fit.

    Saturday, Aug 31 @ 8:54 am
  • Czarina

    Good luck, Hovey!

    Thursday, Aug 29 @ 7:02 am
  • OBXLocal

    Hmm. You could not reach the HoA Attorney nor Hovey’s attorney for comment. So where did you get all of this information? Looks like the Voice is acting as a mouthpiece for Hovey. That’s not journalism.

    Thursday, Aug 29 @ 7:39 am
  • Mark Jurkowitz

    Everyone representing all sides was given a chance to comment. The information used came from the complaint itself, which is part of the public record.

    Thursday, Aug 29 @ 10:39 am
  • Stevejo

    @ Native…. Please don’t insult the Jersey Shore like that.

    Thursday, Aug 29 @ 9:28 am
  • Windy Bill

    Come on people! It’s still quaint. Just look at all of the shoppes.

    Thursday, Aug 29 @ 11:42 am
  • surf123

    He is wasting other peoples time and money. It is too bad we don’t have the British legal system where the person who brings the suit has to pay all attorney fees if they lose.

    Thursday, Aug 29 @ 1:11 pm
  • Steve

    That is a yankee statement if I ever heard one, that he is wasting resources. Try again..

    Friday, Aug 30 @ 6:44 am
  • surf123

    Not even remotely a yankee, but nonetheless he is still wasting peoples time and money. It is private property and this case most likely will be dismissed without ever making it to court. When you buy real estate know what you are buying. I have access on my street, but unless you live on the street you do not, but there are plenty of accesses to use.

    Saturday, Aug 31 @ 8:53 am
  • Richard

    You go boy!

    Thursday, Aug 29 @ 1:11 pm
  • Michael

    Did Hovey include the HOA’s CC&R (Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions), similarly legally recorded by the county, in his filing? CC&Rs are legal records that restrict the use of land within an HOA. According to that HOA’s CC&R, the beach access is restricted to that HOA’s homeowners, renters, and guests. The same is true for nearly all of Duck’s HOAs. The reason being that prior to Duck’s incorporation, all of the oceanfront land was privately owned except for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Duck Pier facility. For whatever reason, Dare County never acquired oceanfront property in what is now Duck to develop public beach access.

    Thursday, Aug 29 @ 1:38 pm
  • Sean Mulligan

    You can write all the covenants into any HOA.It does not mean they will hold up in court because they maybe determined to be illegal.The problem is the beach is not private property.For years the public had access in Duck by driving on the beach and also at the research pier.If those avenues are pursued and can be shown to have existed which I will be happy to show and let the judge know that I had access to the Duck beaches these ways during the 70’s and before then there should be some kind of public grandfather laws which will force the Town of Duck to have to initiate some sort of public access.There are those of us who have been around much longer than the average resident or non resident property owner in Duck and it is high time something is done about this situation.

    Saturday, Aug 31 @ 7:19 am
  • OBXLocal

    Yes it does mean they will hold up in court. The Covenants and Deeds of Restriction are part of the land records and are filed along with the deeds. The original CCRs recorded in 1981 for the land explicitly stated that the access is private.

    Monday, Sep 2 @ 7:30 pm
  • Runnerguy45

    I really appreciate Hovey and the good work the good work he is doing.
    Beach access is an important issue here on the Outer Banks and nationally.

    Thursday, Aug 29 @ 2:34 pm
  • surf123

    Trespassing, making a scene over, and going to court over an access he has no rights to is not good work. If he has lived here for so long how could he not have known that he could not use the access.

    Saturday, Aug 31 @ 8:50 am
  • jim

    So, is there a life guard stationed in the HOA’s section of the beach, and who pays for it. If it’s the town, that would indicate it is not private property.

    Thursday, Aug 29 @ 7:18 pm
  • Michael

    There’s no lifeguard at that HOA, or even anywhere near it. A good resource to locate taxpayer-funded public beach accesses, search for Duck, NC: https://ncdenr.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=0ce9cc86d3d94b9db9f4bb0ec50b6f81

    Friday, Aug 30 @ 10:40 am
  • Sean Mulligan

    What is unbelievable is that a property owner and taxpayer in Duck has no access to the beach.That and the fact that the town of Duck accepted funds from various public sources for beach nourishment yet they have ZERO public access.There are organizations with deep pockets which should be able to help the public win this fight.Unfortunately it will probably take awhile and a lot of money spent by both sides.

    Friday, Aug 30 @ 7:35 am
  • surf123

    Sand nourishment is tied to use of the beach and not access to the beach. You cannot confiscate someones land to use for public access. What was done in Duck was most likely by design. If you do not have public access points then you don’t have the issues that come with it.

    Saturday, Aug 31 @ 8:48 am
  • ConservativeBeachBum

    @ naitive clearly has never been to the Jersey shore. To compare any of our OBX beaches to the Jersey shore is ridiculous and an insult of the highest order.

    Friday, Aug 30 @ 9:47 am
  • Surfergirl

    I’ve been following this pretty close since I live nearby. The issue to me seems is that the homes in Osprey Ridge were using this access for free while the HOA were paying to maintain it over the years. Goodness knows how much has been spent repairing and replacing the access over the ost 30 years, yet Hovey, who owns a rental home across the street, and others, including the management companies were profiting off the beach access paid for by others.

    Why was Hovey the only one arrested? Maybe if he wasn’t so belligerent to the HOA and went about business as usual without drawing attention to himself, none of this would have happened.

    Friday, Aug 30 @ 9:55 am
  • Steve

    A sand path is all that is required, no maintenance needed. Why would anyone be spending a bunch of money on decking and stairs.

    Friday, Aug 30 @ 5:11 pm
  • BlueLife

    Because the access was installed when the subdivision was originally developed and has been maintained very since. You can’t simply climb over a dune.

    Sunday, Sep 1 @ 9:20 pm
  • Tater Tot

    This entire sad episode was caused by the HOA waking up to their rights one morning. I’m no lawyer but sleeping on your rights is an argument in equity that rarely wins. Mr. Hovey’s claims should get him past summary judgment based on the documents. The HOA will bear the burden of proving the public access grant is invalid.

    In the meantime, residents and tourists shoud continue to walk on over to the beach to see the sights and enjoy their beach.

    Friday, Aug 30 @ 2:48 pm
  • Michael

    What makes you think the HOA hasn’t known their rights all along? Everyone who owns property in Duck knows that the HOA beach accesses have always been private property and privately maintained, as legally described and recorded with the county in each HOAs CC&R (Convenants, Conditions, and Restrictions) that restricts land use within the HOA. Hovey also knew that but bought a home in an area that doesn’t have beach access, anyway. I guess he was content to line his pockets by having his renters trespass on others’ private property. That was his decision, and he’s only suing because he regrets it.

    Note that Hovey even admits that when Brindley became aware of what Hovey was doing, they dropped his Duck home from their rental program. So, somehow, everyone including Brindley is wrong? I don’t think so.

    Good source for finding a public beach access in Duck (or any other OBX town, for that matter). Search for Duck, NC: https://ncdenr.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=0ce9cc86d3d94b9db9f4bb0ec50b6f81

    Saturday, Aug 31 @ 12:44 pm
  • Launder

    I’m sorry but this Hovey character is a clown, do us all a favor and go away. Its private property and you knew it when you started this planned stunt. We don’t care about you or your shop.

    Saturday, Aug 31 @ 11:15 am
  • Stevejo

    The local people care about him and his shop and that public beach access. Move back North transplant.

    Saturday, Aug 31 @ 12:53 pm
  • Tater Tot

    Launder you should be careful about calling Mr. Hovey a clown. He could win his civil action and then he’s a clown with a victory over city hall. It’s not private property yet.

    Saturday, Aug 31 @ 1:36 pm