Judge won't block OBX parking pass system


By William F. West
Staff Writer

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

CURRITUCK — Currituck County can continue to charge non-residents a fee to park along part on the county’s Outer Banks beaches — at least for now, a Superior Court judge has ruled.

Judge Jeff Foster, of Pitt County, denied on Monday a Virginia-based group’s request for a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of Currituck’s parking pass ordinance adopted this spring.

The Virginia Four Wheel Drive Association is suing Currituck, claiming the parking pass ordinance violates the state constitution by requiring non-Currituck residents to pay a fee for a parking permit but not require any similar payment from Currituck residents. Under the ordinance, non-Currituck residents must pay $50 for a 10-day pass or $150 for a seasonal pass.

The ordinance requires those who have a vehicle registered in Currituck or who own property in Currituck to obtain a parking permit; however, they’re exempt from having to pay the parking fee. County residents living north of the North Beach Ramp also are allowed to obtain two free additional parking permits for guests.

Sandra Schneirla, the Virginia Four Wheel Drive Association's vice president, said in an email Tuesday that she and the association are disappointed Foster didn’t issue an immediate order to block the ordinance. However, she noted Foster stated that his ruling was no reflection on the merits of the case.

“After hearing the arguments in court of both sides, we are more confident than ever that we will prevail when the case is finally heard on the merits of the constitutional issue,” Schneirla said.

Schneirla is listed as a plaintiff and “aggrieved person” in the lawsuit because, as a non-Currituck resident, she was required to purchase a parking pass for the summer.

The association's attorney, Edwin Hardy of Washington in Beaufort County, couldn’t immediately be reached on Tuesday.

County Attorney Ike McRee couldn't immediately be reached on Tuesday. The county faces an Aug. 20 deadline to file a response to the lawsuit.

The ordinance, adopted by a 5-1 vote by the Currituck Board of Commissioners in March, set new rules that went into effect the Friday before Memorial Day. Because it’s seasonal, those rules will end at 11:59 p.m. on Labor Day.

County officials have said the ordinance is needed for public safety and designed to reduce the number of “day-trippers” who visit the off-road beaches at the height of the vacation season.

“The four-wheel drive beach strand is a popular area shared by many vehicles and pedestrians,” the county said in a press release Tuesday. “The permit system is designed to control the number of vehicles on the beach and increase safety along the shoreline for pedestrians.”