Duck seeks to address access questions after noisy arrest

By on June 3, 2019

The beach is public, but you can’t get there from Duck. (Town of Duck)

The town of Duck is caught in the middle of a social media uproar after the arrest of a local business owner seeking to put a spotlight on the lack of public beach access.

While the beach is considered public, access in Duck is limited to private property and paths controlled and owned by homeowners associations.

The town has issued a statement explaining the legal reasons why.

Over the years, courts have upheld the right of the public to use the dry sand beach from the dune line to the water. But getting to the beach is another matter in areas like Duck and Southern Shores unless you own or rent a house with private access.

Other towns have created accesses and parking with the help of state grants under an amendment to the Coastal Area Management Act in 1981. But these days, that would mean a town could have to pay millions for oceanfront land, which would likely meet stiff resistance from property owners who would foot the bill with local taxes even if any were available.

Otherwise, private property owners would have to grant permission.

A video of a confrontation recently at Seabreeze Drive in Duck drew considerable attention after it was posted on social media.

“On Wednesday, May 29, at approximately 8:00 a.m. Robert E. Hovey was taken into custody and charged with second-degree trespass (N.C.G.S. Section 14-159.13) in the location of Seabreeze Drive,” the town’s statement said.

“This charge is comprised of the following: Without permission, entering or remaining on someone else’s property after being notified not to enter or remain there by the owner, a lawful occupant, or other authorized person; or where there is a notice posted informing intruders not to enter the property.”

In a Facebook post, Hovey argued that the path had been deeded to the public in 1981, before the town was incorporated. Dare County property records indicate that the concrete walkway path straddles two properties at the end of Seabreeze Drive.

See the whole statement »

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There seems to be a whole lot more to this story…reportedly anger at the Town for zoning and usage changes not granted for both Hovey’s business and the business {Roadside}that is doing a fund raiser for him….


The whole idea of private property is that it is private. There are public accesses on other beaches, so no one willing to walk to the mean high tide line to Duck is prohibited from doing so. If you want immediate access to the beach in Duck, buy a home there.

BJ Wiglesworth

Correct. However the property in question isn’t private. The easements were created by the developers when they drew out the plans. The developers were required to create the easements because the state of North Carolina maintains the roads that were built into these neighborhoods. IF the HOAs maintained the roads, Hovey wouldn’t have a leg to stand on HOWEVER, the HOAs do not therefore it is state owned easement to the ocean and not private property as the homeowners would like to think.


Who cares? Big deal… Everybody calm down.


There is no deeded public access, he already lost in court on that claim. Some so-called “locals” don’t seem to want to comprehend the issue at hand here. This is a simple private property issue. There are no public access points in Duck… it’s all private land, how many times does the town need to point this out? There is no plate for the town to step up to. It appears to me that Hovey has been spoiling for a fight that he could use to promote his so-called “cause” (and likely his business). He’s been a Duck resident for… Read more »

Sean Mulligan

The issue at hand are one sided laws that in fact limit access to a public area.If the town of Duck took one cent in County, State or Federal funds for beach nourishment then they should have to provide access to our public beach.I moved to the Outer Banks in 1986 ,not sure what qualifies as a local. I have paid State and local taxes that long. I also love posts where the person cannot even post there name.


Sean (if that is your name), that’s absurd. Tax dollars spent on public projects don’t nullify private property rights.

Windy Bill

Hovey should supply a copy, to all local media, of the deed or plat that shows the publics’ right of access.


He can’t. It doesn’t exist. Mr. Hovey sued that HOA for access several years ago asserting the same claim. His lawsuit was involuntarily dismissed due to lack of merit by the Dare County Superior Court Judge on March 13, 2017. It’s a matter of public record.

Crazy Joe

Why has the issue of the walkway that was deeded to the public, not been answered by the town of Duck?


It has been. Mr. Hovey sued that HOA several years ago for use of the beach access point, claiming it was a public use easement. According to the Register of Deed’s records, it’s not. As such, Mr. Hovey’s lawsuit was summarily involuntarily dismissed in Dare County Superior Court in 2017 due to lack of merit. That means Mr. Hovey cannot sue based on that claim anymore. Mr. Hovey knows that and isn’t being entirely honest in his tale of woe.

Pam Brant

So sorry such controversy.

Local as it gets

What the he’ll is the matter with people. If it were my ocean front home with a access next to my property I wouldn’t care as long a there are now cars parking all over the place. But if someone wants to ride s bike skate or walk there I’d say please enjoy the beach just don’t tear anything up. That is how locals are, and all duck has to do is maintain some chosen accesses. The town earns enough tax revenue to maintain accesses just from the ocean front homes alone so duck…. step up to the plate and… Read more »


Way to go, Local as it gets. I like your mindset.