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Is there a constitutional right to park on beach in NC? Lawsuit filed to settle claim

Virginia Four Wheel Drive Association members assisted Currituck County in beach maintenance earlier this month, according to the group’s Facebook page.
Virginia Four Wheel Drive Association members assisted Currituck County in beach maintenance earlier this month, according to the group’s Facebook page.

A Virginia group devoted to four-wheel driving has filed a lawsuit in North Carolina, claiming Currituck County has no right to charge its members to park on the beach.

“National shorelines and public beaches are just that - public!” said a statement issued by the Virginia Four Wheel Drive Association. “It is our aim to ensure that the rights of everyone...to enjoy our landscape will always be able to do so.”

The association believes Currituck County “is depriving non-residents of the right to drive on the beach.”

Currituck County began enforcing parking fees for non-county residents in May, charging $50 for a 10-day permit and $150 for a seasonal pass, according to WVEC. The fees applies to beaches that welcome off road and four-wheel drive vehicles, the station said.

The idea that a Virginia group is suing for the right to park on a North Carolina beach hasn’t gone over well with some Carolinians, including many on social media who appeared to take offense.

“So let me get this straight, a Virginia club is filing a lawsuit for an unconstitutional fee on a North Carolina beach...? Meanwhile, Virginia tolls drivers that go thru their tunnels, HOV’s, etc.,” posted Dustin Cercado on the association’s Facebook page.

“Tourists and day trippers cause a lot of damages to the beaches,” posted Jessie C. MacBeth. “Paying a fee to come out and damage the beach...and leave trash behind? I find it quite fair.”

“You will lose,” wrote Tommy Harrell on the association’s Facebook page.

Currituck County Manager Dan Scanlon told the Coastland Times the suit “has no merit” and the county was ready to defend the ordinance.

Jesse Schneirla, president of the Virginia Four Wheel Driver Association, told TV station WTKR that the county’s parking permit is a form of discrimination. “It’s a public beach for everybody, and just singling out a select few to pay the absorbent fees they’re paying is unconstitutional,” Schneirla told the station.

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The association says cites the N.C. Constitution as the basis for its lawsuit, noting state law says: “No person or set of persons is entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community but in consideration of public services.”

Attorney Edwin Hardy told the Outer Banks Voice the Four Wheel Drive Association wants $25,000 in actual damages, as well as attorney’s fees.





Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs
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