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Is it true that beachfront towns can’t pass laws affecting anything between the surf and high water mark?

Patrick Gannon
StarNews

Q. Is it true that towns along the beachfront cannot pass laws affecting anything (access) between the surf and high water mark since this land belongs to the state? I heard that a court ruled against the Outer Banks towns amd they lost their suit when they tried to order the removal of homes out past the high water mark? Would this apply to any laws regarding smoking, dogs, nudity and trash on the beach?

A. Beachfront communities have the authority to pass ordinances that affect public trust areas as long as those areas are within their jurisdictional boundaries. That applies to dogs on the beach, nudity, littering and smoking, among other activities, said Michele Walker, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Division of Coastal Management.

The N.C. Court of Appeals recently ruled that Nags Head didn’t have jurisdiction to order the removal of nuisance structures on the public trust beach, Walker said. She didn’t immediately know how that ruling might affect enforcement of other ordinances. She referred questions to the Attorney General’s Office, which is researching the question.

MyReporter has contacted the state Attorney General’s office and hopes to include a response in this answer.

RELATED LINKS:

What does the town of Wrightsville Beach do to stop littering on the beach?

Is it legal to charge for events on the beach?

User-contributed question by:
stephen clemmons

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2 Responses to “ Is it true that beachfront towns can’t pass laws affecting anything between the surf and high water mark?”

  1. On June 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm JT wrote:

    I’ve wondered why beach towns can not enforce certain laws below the high tide mark, but can dictate when and where individuals can surf, fish, kayak, etc.

  2. On June 25, 2012 at 9:44 am Bob Oakes wrote:

    Nags Head has appealed the decision to the NC Supreme Court. The Town believes that these homes had actually completely blocked public access to the beach. The ocean was under these homes almost every day, and the septic tanks were exposed and on the beach since a November northeaster in 2009. After beach nourishment last summer, the Town “undeclared” these homes as nuisances, but the septic tanks would still have be placed east of the dune scarp. The owners want the Town to pay for something the ocean did. The Town is working to make sure there is always a public beach for all of our residents and guests to enjoy.



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