The Duck Town Council has approved moving forward with obtaining an easement at the Barrier Island Station condominium complex for a vehicular beach access with restrictions on its use.
The decision came despite vocal opposition during the public comment portion of the nearly six-hour-long meeting, and more than 150 emails were sent to the town against the proposal, expressing concerns over safety, the environment, and equity of access.
Some opponents are threatening litigation against the town in hopes of blocking the easement, while Duck officials say it is needed as soon as possible for this fall’s beach nourishment project.
Sandy Cross, senior planner with Duck’s Department of Community Development, said the immediate need to obtain the easement is to allow contractor vehicles and equipment from the town’s beach nourishment contractor access to the oceanfront.
The state permit for the project designates Barrier Island and Port Trinitie as temporary construction drive-on access locations.
Cross said the easement would also give Surf Rescue and other first responders another access to the beach for their vehicles.
There is a restricted-use vehicle access at the Army Corps of Engineers Research Pier and near the Duck fire and police station, around one-half mile north of Barrier Island Station.
After the Army granted use of the ramp for the town’s first beach nourishment project in 2017, the military is not allowing access for equipment and trucks from Weeks Marine during the project that is scheduled to begin off Duck in November.
Owners of condos in Barrier Island Station would be able to use the access during the off-season consistent with town’s code, which allows driving on the beach by the public between October 1 and April 30.
There are no public four-wheel drive vehicle or pedestrian accesses located in the Town of Duck, with the lack of pedestrian access available to the public the subject of a lawsuit that was halted by the N.C. Supreme Court in March.
The proposal would allow construction of what the N.C. Division of Coastal Management calls a “Hatteras ramp” on the northeast corner of the Barrier Island property adjacent to the complex’s lone dune walkover and other recreation facilities.
A rubberized, wheelchair access mat that can be removed as required by Coastal Area Management Act regulations would also be part of the ramp.
Concerns raised during the public comment portion of the meeting included:
- The belief that the Town of Duck’s ultimate goal is to develop public access to the oceanfront
- Increased safety risks for those who reside in Ships Watch and Barrier Island
- Noise and light pollution as a result of an increase in vehicular traffic on the beach
- Environmental degradation, including the cutting down of the dune line resulting in a greater risk of ocean overwash
Following the public comments, Cross addressed the audience’s concerns and assured the public that the project would not adversely impact public safety, the environment or result in decreased property values.
Written opposition was also submitted by the homeowners association at Ship’s Watch, which is located immediately north of Barrier Island Station.
The association’s board said in a letter sent to members on September 26 they intend to retain legal counsel and file objections to the ramp proposal.
The council ultimately passed the motion by a 4-1 vote, with councilmember Tony Schiano casting the lone dissenting vote. Mayor Don Kingston, members Monica Thibodeau, Sandy Whitman and Rob Mooney voted to approve.
Watch the full Duck Town Council meeting for Oct. 5, 2022 below. Public comments starts at 5:20, with Cross’s presentation beginning at 2:38:35, followed by questions and discussion between councilmembers and staff in the proposal: