Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Oak Island amends beach closure to include residents, still hasn’t responded to questions

The Town of Oak Island has amended its order once again to restrict all access to the beaches (Port City Daily/File)

OAK ISLAND — Residents of Oak Island might have gotten a chance to enjoy the beaches over the past weekend without the crowds of tourists, but it appears those days are gone. On Monday afternoon the town (once again) amended its declaration of a state of emergency, this time closing the beaches to everyone.

The town sent a press release Monday claiming the new order was to ‘ensure compliance’ with Governor Roy Cooper’s order to stay at home, but Cooper’s order does not specifically mention the closure of the beaches.

“In an effort to ensure compliance with the NC Governor’s Executive Stay-at-Home Order, the Town of Oak Island has amended its State of Emergency Declaration. All beaches are now closed to everyone. All right-of-way parking is closed. All street end accesses are closed. All parks and recreational facilities are closed. Effective immediately, no new rental occupancies of any kind or duration are allowed, according to the town’s press release.

Cooper’s order does allow residents to leave their homes for a number of reasons, one of which is ‘outdoor activity.’

Related: Oak Island allows beach access to residents but not visitors, questions of equity to town go unanswered

Cooper’s executive order reads “… Individuals may leave their residence only to perform any of the following essential activities … To engage in outdoor activity, provided individuals comply with social distancing requirements and mass gatherings…”

The question of the legality of the previous amendment, which granted residents the right to access the publicly-owned beaches was raised with the town, but no response was ever given.

The reason for concern is the fact that laws are supposed to apply equally to everyone. The previous order explicitly forbids visitors from using the public beach access points to get on the beaches, while allowing residents to use them. Public spaces are generally not open to just residents of a town, that would, by definition, make them private spaces.

After the declaration was amended Monday, Port City Daily reached out to the town for a comment on the decision, and for an opinion on the legality of the previous beach closures — once again — the town has not responded to media questions.

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