Kill Devil Hills Board approves balloon release ban

By on July 9, 2024

Commissioners opt for $25 fine, restrict enforcement to town-owned property

Debbie Swick thanked the KDH Commissioners, but she asked for tougher provisions in the ban.

After discussion and a request to toughen up its provisions, the Kill Devil Hills Board of Commissioners on July 8 became the fifth Dare County municipality to enact a balloon release ban within its borders.

The measure, which passed unanimously on a voice vote, prohibits “the intentional release of lighter-than-air balloons on Town-owned property, including recreational areas and ocean and soundside accesses.” The fine for violators is $25.

During the public comment period at the July 8 meeting which preceded the vote, Debbie Swick, founder of Ban Balloon Release in North Carolina, asked the commissioners to make some changes to the proposed measure.

She encouraged the board to increase the $25 fine to $250, which is the fine imposed by some of the other Dare County towns. She expressed the hope that a heftier fine would act as a “deterrent that will make people think twice.”

In addition, she asked the commissioners to expand the ordinance to cover intentional balloon releases, not only on town-owned property but on “all property as other towns have done.” She also made an impassioned case that balloon releases bring “death and harm to wildlife” as well create litter. In the end, the ordinance approved on July 8 did not incorporate Swick’s suggestions.

Aside from Swick, several other speakers also supported the ban during public comment. Duck resident Mirian Rollin stated that “balloon are frequently mistaken for food” by wildlife and that “string or ribbon is often found tied around the necks of many of these marine animals.”

Kathleen Adolt-Silva, of Kill Devil Hills, also urged the commissioners to support the ban and Richard Clements, a guide for the Wild Horse Tours in Corolla, added that “I will pick up one to three balloons a day in Corolla.” He noted that when balloons float on the open water, “the sun bleaches out the color, they look like jellyfish, this is why the marine wildlife eat them.”

After the public comment period, the discussion among commissioners focused largely on the request to raise the fine to $250 and expand the measure to include intentional releases anywhere within town limits.

Commissioner B.J. McAvoy acknowledged that he was “amenable” to the ban, but worried about straining the resources of the town’s police force and said a $250 fine “just seems over the top.” Conversely, Commissioner Terry Gray stated that “I do support the $250 fine.”

Commissioner Ivy Ingram said she believes the ban against balloon releases is “a societal change that’s going to come,” but also noted that she had qualms about the measure applying to personal property.

Echoing the concerns of others on the board, Commissioner T. Dillon Heikens said, “I worry about the strain on police and public safety.”

At one point, Town Attorney Casey Varnell told the commissioners that the measure before the board followed instructions to “bring you back something that mirrors or was close to what Nags Head did.” The balloon ban release passed in May by Nags Head prohibits the intentional release of balloons on town-owned property and mandates a fine of $50—provisions close to what Kill Devil Hills approved.

Mayor John Windley spoke in favor of approving the measure as proposed—with the ban applying to town-owned property with the $25 fine—stating that, “We can use today’s ordinance as a starting point, learn some more about it, see where it goes…We’re not closing the book. We’re just moving on to the next chapter.”



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  • Hilarious

    This story keeps getting better and better. If a balloon is in the air and no one is around:
    1) who is going to police the balloon
    2) how will you prove who’s balloon this is
    3) will you be hiring the Balloon Police
    Get a grip people! Freaking Hilarious

    Tuesday, Jul 9 @ 2:28 pm
  • Roy

    Many balloons are ‘personalized’. They might have the name of a couple getting married, someone’s birthday, or some other event. It is possible the organizer of these events could be tracked down. Not really practical but it is possible.

    Tuesday, Jul 9 @ 6:21 pm
  • surf123

    Serial numbers and balloon registration might be next.

    Tuesday, Jul 9 @ 6:56 pm
  • Rosie

    It is so tiring to see people making snarky comments about others who have nothing but good intentions. Exactly what is the problem with trying to limit the trash and debris in the water and on the beaches? Seems to me that Ms. Swick is spending her time and energy trying to bring about a better environment for everyone. Some people try to make positive changes others stand on the sidelines and ooze negativity. Let’s hope the cynics are the first to show up when volunteers are needed for beach clean up.

    Tuesday, Jul 9 @ 9:50 pm
  • Currituck Should Follow

    I support Ms. Swick’s efforts, and the municipalities that have decided to fine balloon releases.

    Balloons pose a choking danger to wildlife, specifically turtles and birds, as they perceive them as food. The ban is not ‘hilarious’ as it raises public awareness for a group with no seat at the table.

    Can we all agree to think a little downstream about our actions and be citizens who respect wildlife? Just dispose of any balloons responsibly; or better yet, make a choice to not buy balloons or helium.

    Tuesday, Jul 9 @ 10:46 pm
  • sign man

    Can’t wait for the signs to be posted at beach accesses and soundside accesses in KDH addressing this laughable ordnance against balloon releases. How soon will we be seeing a job opportunity listed from KDH for full time balloon release enforcement officer?

    plastic bags permitted, but balloons not … does that make sense to y’all?

    cuff and stuff boys and girls and be sure to put how many violators in the KDH crime reports.

    Tuesday, Jul 9 @ 11:54 pm
  • Travis

    Next: KDH investing in several state-of-the-art “Poptriot” anti-balloon systems that will create an Iron Dome over the town, rendering balloon releases “practically impossible.”

    Wednesday, Jul 10 @ 12:06 am
  • RicknKDH

    “Woops! There goes my balloon.” Now how would the police know if it was intentional? Here’s an example of another law that can’t / won’t be enforced.
    Hey Mark, it would be great to see how many tickets/warnings are made this season.

    Wednesday, Jul 10 @ 7:20 am
  • Dylan

    When a balloon is spotted, call the US Military. They have experience chasing balloons and shooting these nefarious objects down.

    Wednesday, Jul 10 @ 8:07 am
  • Jay

    Next we tackle the sources of pollution that cause the closure of sections of ocean and sound side beaches.

    Wednesday, Jul 10 @ 9:41 am
  • Liz

    It’s hard not to be cynical about this. This is a feel good, virtue signaling measure.

    With all the really serious issues facing our Outer Banks, THIS one required five municipalities spending time on meetings, discussions, public input yada yada? Are plastic straws next?

    Yet somehow, the plastic bag ban is no longer in place. Far, far more plastic bags are used in a single day than probably a month of nasty old balloons. How many of those bags end up in the ocean?

    Wednesday, Jul 10 @ 10:35 am
  • Other Jay

    Glad to see this big story occur, it distracted everyone from wanting to know who MTS Capital is.

    Wednesday, Jul 10 @ 11:54 am
  • sign man

    Rosie, I do not find this action positive or producing any change in the issue. The short term (4 year?) new resident well-intentioned person who got the KDH board to buy into this unrealistic nonsense of banning balloon releases on town property would better spend her time on realistic environmental issues such as banning the use of plastic bags in Dare County.

    I must admit she was able to add more unneeded, unrealistic regulations which you and I and most everyone else except the KDH commissioners know will not solve or really address the problem.

    Yup lots of the snarkies including myself realize how silly this unenforceable and wrong approach is just hot air in the wind.

    By the way for over 30 years I have participated in many beach and town trash pickup events as well as many others in KDH participate in those events which is positive and does produce tangible results; however I do not plan on wasting my time on patrolling for virtually non existent balloon releases on the KDH beaches.

    Perhaps the originator could get a government grant to study just where all those balloons on the beach originate to get a better handle of how to solve this issue or the KDH commissioners rather than being lemmings realize that common sense dictates this action will in no way produce any “positive ” results.

    Wednesday, Jul 10 @ 12:08 pm
  • william hentnik

    Ban all helium filled ballons!

    Wednesday, Jul 10 @ 12:26 pm
  • Human Utensil for the Rich

    Does the American Balloon Manufacturers have a lobbying group?
    These ladies mean well. They retired here because of their love of the Outer Banks and the ocean.
    And because they are not in the OBX labor force cleaning rental houses, swimming pools, waitressing, etc., they have the time to walk the beach and observe the trash.
    Now let’s ban styrofoam bodyboards and soft-top surfboards that produce micro-plastics as they decompose………………

    Wednesday, Jul 10 @ 1:33 pm
  • Donna

    Ban Ban Ban BAN everything that I don’t like or approve of!
    This BAN LIST is not a complete, this is my short list:
    1) Alcohol…harms more people than we count . kills many people every year.
    2) Cigarettes…causes cancer. smelly. secondhand smoke is dangerous. cigarette butts harm wildlife
    3) Swimming…shark bites, stingray barbs, lacerations caused by shells, drowning
    4) Golf Carts…people are hanging all over the cart, and hanging off the carts, not belted in, drinking alcohol, driving on the multi use path nearly injuring walkers, joggers, dogs
    5) Fun…this is intolerable and should not be allowed.

    I will not vote for any of these people that run for reelection. These mandates, dictates, ordinances are a waste of time.

    Wednesday, Jul 10 @ 3:17 pm
  • Helium Hank

    Praise be to Jesus! The balloons have been defeated!

    Wednesday, Jul 10 @ 4:57 pm
  • KDHer

    I would hope the KDH commissioners give as much effort to the dangerous intersection at US158 and 5th Street. After all us humans count as much as Marine life.

    The lady got the KDH commissioners to pass a very questionable unworkable resolution so just maybe she would work on getting that very dangerous intersection improved

    Wednesday, Jul 10 @ 5:35 pm
  • No helium

    No fun, who doesn’t love to huff some helium and talk high-pitched once in a while. It’s fun.

    Wednesday, Jul 10 @ 7:50 pm
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