Emerald Isle’s Fight to Preserve the Public Beach Continues
THE CASE OF Nies v. Emerald Isle will be considered by the NC Supreme Court later this year, and the court’s decision could have a profound impact on the public’s use of beaches everywhere in North Carolina in the future.
The ultimate question in this case is whether the public has a right to use the dry-sand beach in North Carolina. As argued by the town’s attorneys (the town’s brief can be viewed at www.emeraldisle-nc.org/Data/Sites/1/media/pdfs/legal/town-brief—nies—nc-supreme-court.pdf ), the plaintiffs contend the public does not have the right to use the dry-sand beach adjacent to their beach house. Plaintiffs claim that the public is only entitled to use the wet-sand beach. No North Carolina court has ever held that an oceanfront property owner has the right to exclude the public from the dry sand beach. If all North Carolina oceanfront property owners took the plaintiffs’ position, the dry-sand beaches of North Carolina would be effectively closed to the public. This would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the public to enjoy the beach for traditional recreational activities that have occurred on the beach for centuries.
The town maintains that North Carolina law clearly allows the public to use the entire flat, dry-sand beach area up to the base of the dunes. The entire 300+ miles of North Carolina’s beaches, in all 8 oceanfront counties and all 21 oceanfront municipalities, have been used by the public and managed with this understanding for centuries. The NC Superior Court and the NC Court of Appeals have both already ruled in the town’s favor, upholding the long-established and universally-accepted policy and law in North Carolina that the public has the right to use the beach from the base of the dunes to the water. The NC Supreme Court will now consider this case, and they will make the definitive ruling on this issue.
The Town of Emerald Isle is committed to the principle of public beach access, and has been fighting diligently since this case was initiated in 2011 to defend the public’s right to use the entire beach – wet-sand and dry-sand, between the base of the dunes and the water. The town is committed to public beach access in all forms, for enjoyment by all people, for various recreational pursuits. The town recognizes that different people enjoy different recreational activities on North Carolina beaches, including sunbathing, swimming, surfing, surf fishing, walking, running, driving, playing volleyball/bocce ball/corn hole/other beach games, flying kites, observing wildlife, and so on and so on. All of these activities rely to some degree on the public’s use of the flat, dry-sand beach and simply cannot occur solely from the wet-sand beach. If the NC Supreme Court overturns the NC Court of Appeals ruling, all of these activities are in jeopardy. The town also recognizes the paramount importance of unhindered beach access in order to provide critical water rescue and emergency medical assistance when called upon, and the need for reasonable regulations on the beach strand to protect the health, safety, and welfare of everyone on the beach.
An adverse ruling in this case would have a devastating impact on all coastal communities and the state as a whole. If the public is no longer entitled to use the dry-sand beach, how desirable is it for a vacationer to rent a second row home or another interior home? What does that do the North Carolina tourism economy? What impact does that have on our restaurants and shops that rely on millions of annual visitors to our beaches? What impact does that have on all North Carolina coastal property values and the coastal real estate market? Where will people who live in mainland Carteret County or mainland New Hanover County, etc. enjoy the beach experience – is that not why many people on the mainland choose to live in relative close proximity to the beach? What kind of message will it send to the rest of the country as those families are planning their future beach vacations, second home purchase, or retirement destination – will it create a perception that “North Carolina’s beaches are private, so we don’t want to be there”?
Beyond the drastic economic impacts, what about the ability of our dedicated volunteers to relocate sea turtle nests that require a dry-sand beach in order to hatch successfully? What about the need for emergency services personnel to travel safely and quickly along the beach strand to rescue those in need? What about the ability for other personnel to remove debris and keep the beach clean and beautiful for all to enjoy? What about aging and disabled individuals who no longer have the ability to walk on the beach, and need to use a vehicle to access the beach and enjoy the amazing beach experience in the fall and winter months? What about the thousands of surf fishermen who treasure the opportunity to “land the big one” from the beach strand? It is human nature to focus first on our own personal form of enjoyment of the beach, but the reality is that everyone’s ability to enjoy the beach is what makes the beach experience so special for North Carolinians and the millions of visitors who choose to spend their time and money in North Carolina each year.
The entire North Carolina beach experience is at stake in this case, and the NC Supreme Court’s decision could impact all of us in the future. The Town of Emerald Isle, our legal team, state government, other coastal local governments, and many other groups are fighting hard to preserve the public’s right to use the beach in North Carolina for current and future generations, in the same way that prior generations have before us.
To view the NC Court of Appeals ruling, the town’s brief submitted to the NC Supreme Court earlier this week, and several amicus briefs submitted in support of the town’s position, please visit www.emeraldisle-nc.org/legal-briefs-%E2%80%93-nies-v-emerald-isle- .
Emerald Isle Fortunate to be Served by Outstanding Police
The Emerald Isle Police Dept., led by Chief Jeff Waters, continues to provide excellent service to our residents, property owners and visitors. EIPD staff work hard to proactively patrol our neighborhoods, prevent and solve crimes, build relationships with the community and respond to emergency calls as quickly as possible, all in a highly professional manner. In the wake of recent police tragedy and criticism in our country, all of us at the Town of Emerald Isle are reminded of how fortunate we are to have the dedicated and outstanding service of each officer in the EIPD.
Current full-time members of the Emerald Isle Police Dept. include:
- Chief Jeff Waters, serving EIPD since 1985
- Major Tony Reese, serving EIPD since 2000
- Captain Paul Cheshire, serving EIPD since 1994
- Lieutenant Bill Bailey, serving EIPD since 1991
- Sergeant Nick Gottuso, serving EIPD since 2002 (previous service from 1995-2000)
- Sergeant David Ketchum, serving EIPD since 2004
- Sergeant Mark Odom, serving EIPD since 2006
- Sergeant Clayton Pittman, serving EIPD since 2009
- Investigator Sandra DeLorme, serving EIPD since 2007
- Officer Tyler Biskup, serving EIPD since 2009
- Officer Truitt Blalock, serving EIPD since 2010
- Officer Kerry Caldwell, serving EIPD since 2015
- Officer Tom Duty, serving EIPD since 2014
- Officer Tim Long, serving EIPD since 1988
- Officer Bill Morris, serving EIPD since 2013
- Officer Bobby Reeves, serving EIPD since 2011
- Officer Jacob Smith, serving EIPD since 2014
Current reserve members of the Emerald Isle Police Dept. include:
- Officer Jonathan Barratt, serving EIPD since 2014
- Officer Christopher Burroughs, serving EIPD since 2014
- Officer Brian Probst, serving EIPD since 2016
- Officer Kenny Castro, serving EIPD since 2016
- Officer Jeffrey Edgerton, serving EIPD since 2016
- Officer Ashley Gilley, serving EIPD since 2016
- Officer Ronnie Hall, serving EIPD since 2013
- Officer David Halsey, serving EIPD since 2014
- Officer Amin Lopez, serving EIPD since 1999
- Officer Jessica Newman, serving EIPD since 2014
- Officer Christina Norman, serving EIPD since 2013
- Officer Mike Panzarella, serving EIPD since 2015
- Officer Tony Romano, serving EIPD since 2013
- Officer Craig Shafer, serving EIPD since 2015
- Officer Richard Sherin, serving EIPD since 2015
Support staff in the Emerald Isle Police Department include:
- Records Administrator Julie O’Neil, serving since 2015
- Customer Service Assistant Charlie Rock, since 1999
- Customer Service Assistant Peter Rybak, since 2008
- Customer Service Assistant Carol Wendt, since 2012
Please take a moment to express your thanks to our officers the next time you see them!
New Grocery Store
Proposed for Emerald Isle
Plans for a proposed new grocery store will be considered by the planning board and the board of commissioners at multiple meetings in August and September. The new 31,000+ square foot store is proposed for vacant parcels (6+ acres) located along Hwy 58 and Crew Drive between Emerald Landing Drive and the Emerald Plantation Shopping Center.
The proposed project includes a change in the legal status of Crew Drive, but maintains public use of the Crew Drive roadway in perpetuity in the same location. The applicants have proposed construction of a new, wider public roadway with curb and gutter, and also new sidewalks along Crew Drive and Emerald Landing Drive. The proposed project also includes either the installation of a new traffic signal or roundabout at the Hwy 58/Emerald Landing Drive intersection to address projected traffic impacts.
New Transportation Impact Building Complete
The new headquarters for Transportation Impact, a parcel spend-management firm based in Emerald Isle, is now complete, and is a beautiful new addition to our community. The new, 12,000 square foot facility is three stories, and is just below the town’s 40 foot roof height limit.
Transportation Impact offices are located on the first two stories, and the new Caribsea restaurant is located on the third floor, along with a rooftop seating area.
Turtle Naming Contest Underway
Thanks to the Emerald Isle Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, we have a beautiful bronze piece of art in the form of a sea turtle under the old oak tree at the Emerald Isle Welcome Center. So … if you are 12 years old or younger, enter a turtle name along with your name, age, address, email address and phone number on an entry form at the Welcome Center, 8401 Emerald Drive.
The winning name will be decided on Labor Day. The lucky winner will receive a hand crafted Nantucket basket donated by local artist Ken Ambrose, and a check from the Emerald Isle Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee for $50. Good luck!
Did You Know?
The room occupancy taxes levied on all vacation rentals in Carteret County generate approximately $6.5 million annually for tourism promotion and beach nourishment efforts in Carteret County. More than 60% of this amount, or approximately $4 million annually, is derived from vacation rentals in Emerald Isle alone!