Beach access debate re-ignites at Duck meeting

By on April 7, 2022

But town council sees matter as ‘a dead issue’

The debate over public versus private beach access resurfaced at this week’s Duck Town Council meeting, with the latest round between homeowners on Plover Drive – where there is a private beach access – and Bob Hovey, a Duck business owner who has led a crusade to bring public beach access to the town’s beaches.

Hovey’s effort to keep the beach access issue alive, however, did not seem to convince the council members. Summing up the sentiment at the meeting, Council Member Rob Mooney declared: “I think this is kind of a dead issue as far as we’re concerned.”

During the April 6  meeting, Miriam Rollin presented the council with a petition signed by 94 property owners of Plover Drive that was created in response to a March 15 Facebook post by Hovey, in which he wrote that “the fight for access in Duck is far from over” and declared his intentions to ask the town to create additional state-owned roadside parking along Plover Drive and to ensure public access to the beach there.

“Hovey – fresh off his recent clear defeats at both the NC Appellate Court and NC Supreme Court in efforts to access the beach via Sand Dollar Shores’ private beach access – has now set his sights on Plover Drive for beach access in Duck,” the petition read. “And several rental agencies and real estate companies operating in Duck have illegally asserted public beach access via Plover Drive…”

The petition refers to a 2019 suit filed by Hovey and his wife, Tanya, against the Sand Dollar Shores Homeowners’ Association. They contended that the beach access in that subdivision was in the public trust. In 2020, however, a NC Court of Appeals ruled that the access was private. Hovey filed an appeal, but the NC Supreme Court decided not to hear the case, letting the Appellate Court’s decision stand.

The Plover Drive petition asked the town to ensure police enforcement of no parking restrictions on both sides of and for the entire length of Plover Drive and to “reject any illegal attempts by any who are not property owners on Plover Drive…to exercise any control of the private beach access easement.” It also directed rental agencies to stop advertising the Plover Drive access as an option for properties not located on the street.

Hovey, speaking during public comment at the April 6 meeting, said,” I had no idea there was going to be so much opposition to me using the beach I’ve been using most of my life on Plover Drive.” He also claimed that in 1976, Plover Drive was “very clearly and unambiguously deeded to the public.”

Hovey asked that the council discuss the issue before “fifty years of parking [on the roadway] gets shut down entirely.” He also asked it to pressure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allow public beach access at the federal site. Before Sept. 11, 2001, while not officially designated as a public beach access, surfers would use the parking area on the site, but since then, security measures have prohibited that.

During the portion set aside for council discussion, Mayor Don Kingston said that the council put it on the agenda “because we…were accused of saying we would discuss it at a future meeting, and with the court cases and everything else that was going on, we never really had a discussion with council.”

As for Hovey’s request, Kingston said, “the NC Supreme Court has upheld the Court of Appeals saying there’s no public access in Duck, and if he wants to pursue that, I don’t think the town has any role.”

The mayor said there would be internal discussions between the police chief and town manager about whether “we really want to arrest people for trespassing. But we certainly could do it for other reasons such as disturbing the peace or anything along those lines.”

When it comes to parking violations, he added, “I don’t think we have the staff to enforce parking on every street if it’s not complaint-driven.”

The mayor also noted that a public access at the Field Research Facility is not a viable option due to the nature of the work conducted at the site. Town Manager Drew Havens, who said he has had recent discussions with the Corps, concurred, adding that he is willing to pursue it further if directed, “but I can tell you what the answer will be.”

Regarding the Plover Drive issue, Council Member Tony Schiano added, “I’m not looking forward to posting people over there to have everyone arrested who walks by. But I think people have the right to expect that their private property rights will be protected by law enforcement…I think we have an obligation to do that.”

Mayor Pro Tem Monica Thibodeau agreed with the comments and added that the larger issue is that the town has grown and there are several streets in Duck that do not have deeded beach access.

“In other words, there are some communities, some neighbors of ours, who don’t have a way to get to the beach,” she said. “And so I think that one thing we could do is encourage neighbors to talk to neighbors and see if there are things that they can work out…I think it’s neighborly to let people walk across your boardwalk to get to the public ocean. But you can’t tell people what to do.”


  • Czarina

    It is astounding …. and disgusting …. that communities not only deny people to have access to the beach. They even deny their own property owners who don’t happen to own oceanfront homes. Selfish. Snobby!

    Thursday, Apr 7 @ 7:28 pm
  • surf123

    If Hovey is correct that “very clearly and unambiguously deeded to the public” then he should present this deed. The fact that he trespassed for how every many years or decades does not mean he is legally allowed to do it. Much like speeding, most of time you get away with it until you get caught. This is no different.

    This is a side effect of the influx of more visitors each year. Homeowners who might have looked the other way no longer can or will. No one wants a private access that is owned by the neighborhood accessed by those who are owners. That access must be part of their deed or the court would not have ruled the way it did. This private access is exactly why you purchase land (or a home) that has deeded access to the water if you want it. The street I live on has deeded ocean access via an easement on one of the oceanfront lots for the 40+ homes in the neighborhood. About 20 years ago a commercial building on the other side of the highway was replaced with a cul-de-sac that includes a few homes. The renters can use our side the street, but there is no parking, however they cannot use the beach access but they do anyway. It really does not affect me as I am a good ways from the ocean, however the person with easement is not as tolerant, nor should they be.

    Thursday, Apr 7 @ 9:29 pm
  • Justin

    Sound like Duck may be the only place in NC allowed to be landlocked?

    Thursday, Apr 7 @ 10:10 pm
  • Ol’Cheebs

    A clear violation of the public trust doctrine.

    They want us to spend tax dollars for a new bridge so people don’t drive on their towns’ road.
    So people will take the new bridge, not be able to access the peoples’ waters and will still drive through your town until they can find a beach access that is not fenced off by an elitist town council.

    There is no southern hospitality to be found in Southern Shores or Duck…. Of course there is not many southerns there anymore either.

    Friday, Apr 8 @ 6:07 am
  • lippy

    Why doesn’t Hovey sell his rental home in Osprey Ridge in Duck and buy an Oceanfront home, then he can run his surfing lessons for his business without trampling other homeowners rights and dragging the town of Duck through the mud.
    It is not an elitist town, as many of his “Hovidiots” would like you to believe, there are plenty of retired government employees, working folks, who live there.

    Friday, Apr 8 @ 8:13 am
  • Greg

    It is a shame that Duck only has beach access for property owners. Many of the streets in Duck are public but there is no parking on them. However there is a great deal of access from Kitty Hawk Pier to Hatteras Village . From Kitty Hawk Pier North there are only 4 public accesses in 23 miles

    Friday, Apr 8 @ 8:15 am
  • Sounds like a county issue

    surf123 has a vendetta against mr hovey lol. Always quick to point out it’s for personal gain. Even if it is for personal gain, the general public will also win. So rather than point out the faults, look at the positivity that he is drawing up.

    Also this is something that needs to be brought to the attention of the county commissioners. Duck should not receive county funds for beach nourishment if they do not have public beach accesses. They should get fema and town funds only.

    Friday, Apr 8 @ 9:27 am
  • Travis

    Hovey might not have the right to access the beach via Plover Drive but there’s nothing to keep him and several dozen like-minded friends from using the beach in front of Plover Drive (arriving via a legal access, of course). A few weekends of Occupy Plover Beach might bring the stakeholders to the table to hammer out an agreement everyone can live with. More trash receptacles. Designated parking times. Designated parking areas. Seems like there is a lot of room to craft something everyone can live with.

    Friday, Apr 8 @ 9:39 am
  • james

    Former state Senate leader Marc Basnight once proclaimed that beach homes “are our factories.” To this date and going forward in the future, this quote pretty much sums up how our local government views full-time residents whether it be Duck, Nags Head, and all points in between. The ticket to owning your own “factory” is to buy a home in a so called residential neighborhood, install a basketball and volleyball court, put in putt-putt in the back yard, put your custom designed logo on the front of the house along with the rental number/name, never live in the home a single day, but rent it out on a weekly basis just a like a Motel in every sense of the word without all the ADA, fire, and other compliance issues Motels must deal with. While your at it, go ahead and spend millions or local tax payer dollars so your renters have a temporary wide beach that is private and only they can access Finally, make sure and double property taxes every 10 years so all these little towns can pay a government autocrat a 100 grand a year and a lifetime pension while the average Joe flips burgers for minimum wage and lives up in Barco . Welcome to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

    Friday, Apr 8 @ 11:15 am
  • T P

    Southern Shores provides beach access parking passes for all town residents and their visitors / renters

    Friday, Apr 8 @ 1:45 pm
  • T P

    It’s incredible that the tiny tourist town of Duck won’t take care of its own citizens. Meanwhile, these same Duckies create the huge traffic jams during summer season by restricting the flow. How about a Duck jug handle bridge? And who pays for their beach services?

    Friday, Apr 8 @ 1:50 pm
  • Bob

    If the access has been used for many years without objection, it is possible that a right of way has been established by adverse possession. Find grounds to sue in Federal court, and name the Army Corps in it along with everyone else. You’ll do better there.

    Friday, Apr 8 @ 4:01 pm
  • Clarkson

    Czarina – where do you get your info? Hovey doesn’t own a home in the community. He owns a rental home across the street. He just wants to profit off other communities properties. BTW – this isn’t about beach access for him, it’s about $$ – he owns an oceanfront rental home in KH.

    Saturday, Apr 9 @ 12:12 pm
  • Jim

    In response to the comments above, here are some facts:
    1.In order to have ocean access in Duck, you have to own or rent a property with deeded access. The majority of these homes are not ocean front; additionally, almost all homes in Duck have deeded access. It is an anomaly to not have ocean access when staying in Duck.
    2. The deed from 1976 that Hovey alleges “very clearly and unambiguously” gave the Plover Drive access to the public fails to meet the test for public donation as the court explained very carefully to Mr. Hovey in his recent lawsuit with Sand Dollar Shores and has, further, since been superseded by other deeds. The court decision is available on line.
    3. According to the tax records, Hovey owns several properties on the Outer Banks, at least one of which is ocean front.
    4. Hovey’s argument for prescriptive or adverse possession fails on many bases, one one of which is that a “No Trespassing” sign has been at the Plover Drive access point for over 20 years.
    5. No parking is allowed on Plover Drive and no trash receptacles are available at the access point. The access point is privately maintained, and no public amenities are available.
    6. According to the town of Duck, the Town’s portion of the cost of beach nourishment “was funded by a contribution from all of the taxpayers in Duck . . . with additional funding provided by property owners in the project area, both oceanfront and non-oceanfront (MSDs).”

    Saturday, Apr 9 @ 1:11 pm
  • Greg

    NC DOT needs to put up a sign at the beginning of the Duck Road that reads; Public Beach Access 13 miles and 22 miles, because that is all there is in that 24 mile stretch of NC12. Public access is abundant from Kitty Hawk to Okracoke

    Saturday, Apr 9 @ 1:59 pm
  • beachbum

    And this is why we never go near Duck anymore.

    Saturday, Apr 9 @ 8:49 pm
  • AndyM

    No public parking then no public money.

    Saturday, Apr 9 @ 10:45 pm
  • Lemonshirt

    I’m so glad I bought and live on the west side of KDH, where thoughtful planning offers ample beach access to residents and visitors alike.
    I never have to set foot in Duck. Nor plan to.

    Sunday, Apr 10 @ 3:28 pm
  • Charles

    It’s so easy to immediately put the blame on the Town of Duck or the HOA instead of reading the court ruling and trying to understand the issue. Duck became a town in 2002, years after all the oceanfront property was already sold and developed.

    Sunday, Apr 10 @ 9:36 pm
  • Kim

    Every other town that takes taxpayer dollars for beach nourishment has established public beach access. I personally don’t care whether the Town of Duck does or doesn’t except if you want my taxpayer dollars to fund your beach nourishment than you should provide me both public parking and beach access to your beaches. If you don’t want to that’s fine too but then don’t ask for my tax dollars to pay for your beach nourishment, pay for it yourselves to keep your beaches to yourselves.

    Monday, Apr 11 @ 8:51 pm