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Currituck to impose beach-parking fee May 1

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Bob White

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Monday, February 5, 2018

CURRITUCK — If you drive on Currituck County’s northern beaches and want to park, get ready to begin paying for the privilege starting May 1.

Currituck commissioners recently directed county staff to set up a fee schedule that charges motorists $50 for a 10-day beach-parking pass and $150 for an annual beach-parking pass.

The permits will be sold at the Currituck welcome centers at Ocean Club Centre in Corolla and on N.C. Highway 168 at the North Carolina-Virginia border. Revenue from the passes will help pay for repairs and other county services in the beach areas, Commissioner Bob White said.

"The goal is to cut down traffic," White said, explaining the reason for the parking pass system during Currituck commissioners’ recent annual retreat.

Commissioners have become increasingly concerned about the rising volume of vehicle traffic on the county’s beaches. Although no serious accidents involving pedestrians and vehicles have been reported in the off-road area, commissioners are worried about the potential for them, particularly as more people, especially those making day trips, visit Currituck’s beaches.

A majority of commissioners in fact voted in November to revise county ordinances to restrict the area where motorists can drive on a mile-and-a-half stretch of beach between Memorial Day and Labor Day. 

According to the revised ordinance, motorists will be prohibited during those six months from driving on what’s commonly known as the “foreshore” a half-mile north of the North Beach Ramp at Milepost 13 to Albatross Lane at Milepost 17. On that part of the beach, motorists, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., will have to drive on the sand near the dune line. 

At the time commissioners adopted the new driving restriction, board Chairman Bobby Hanig also discussed the possibility of requiring permits to park on the beach. Commissioners have also talked about requiring a driving pass to access beach areas.

During their recent retreat, commissioners’ discussion first focused on whether the county should require driving passes to access county beach areas.

Hanig said one issue with requiring a driving pass is that it would impose a significant cost on full-time residents of the beach areas. He considered that unfair.

"If you have a house in the four-by-four (area), you shouldn't have to get a pass to get to your house," he said.

Commissioner Paul Beaumont said a driving pass system also could potentially overburden Currituck Travel and Tourism Director Tameron Kugler's office. He noted the office could be overwhelmed having to process requests for driving passes.

Scanlon said if that happened, the county might have to hire either an extra full-time or part-time employee for the travel and tourism office.

Hanig also questioned how a driving pass system would affect guests of full-time residents. Would the guest have to purchase a driving pass just to visit for one day? he asked.

Commissioner Mike Payment said the county ought to pursue a parking pass system for the beach areas instead of a driving-pass system.

Commissioner Marion Gilbert, however, said she preferred the driving pass system because she thought it could be implemented better. Those paying the fee could be charged for it when the county collects property taxes, she said.

Gilbert also said a parking-pass system might lead to more motorists driving on the beaches but deciding not to park.

Hanig, Payment and White expressed concerns, however, about a driving fee’s impact on repair businesses responding to calls at beach homes. 

After commissioners agreed to drop the idea of a driving fee, Hanig moved the discussion toward setting a fee for parking passes.

"Do you want to make it not easy to go on the beach? Do you want to make it worthwhile?" he asked.

White suggested setting a weekly fee of $50 for beach parking. Hanig suggested charging an annual beach-parking fee of $150.

In response to Hanig’s question about whether those suggested fees were too high or too low, Scanlon replied, "I would say you're low."

“What's the rate if you were going to go out there for one day that you wouldn't pay?" he asked.

Scanlon said if commissioners believe $50 would discourage a day-tripper from making only one visit to the beach, then the fee was probably what the county should charge.

Gilbert requested the $50 fee be good for 10 days instead of seven. Her reasoning was that 10 days would better fit the schedule of vacationers who rent beach cottages for extended stays.

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