Friday, August 19, 2022

Mayor says Wrightsville Beach will open beaches for ‘limited activities,’ no timeline given yet [Free read]

Wrighstville Beach (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
Wrightsville Beach will be opening the beaches for ‘limited access.’ (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — While the coronavirus has the entire state on some form of lockdown, the Town of Wrightsville Beach will consider lifting the closure of its beaches — at least to an extent.

On Wednesday, Mayor Darryl Mills made a statement on the town’s Facebook page alluding to the reopening of beaches with ‘limited access.’

“I want to thank the residents of Wrightsville Beach for your cooperation and patience in meeting the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. There have been some difficult decisions made that have affected all of us. I acknowledge that it has been frustrating and difficult for most. We have been regularly conferring with the New Hanover County elected and public health officials and the mayors of the other municipalities in the County. We do recognize the potential health benefits of getting outside and engaging in physical activity. That said, look for an announcement soon that will provide for limited access to Wrightsville Beach for some activities that will be completely spelled out in a press release from the Town of Wrightsville Beach,” he wrote.

The exact meaning of ‘limited access’ is ambiguous and it is not yet known if the town plans on limiting access to only town residents, or perhaps they plan to take a similar approach to what Carolina Beach has discussed. That would be limited access for things like recreation (think jogging/walking or surfing) not simply hanging out at the beach.

It is not yet known how or when the town plans on making these changes. If it is done before April 29, the date the county’s orders are set to expire, it will put the town at odds with the county.

The county’s order states, “Access to beaches including, but not limited to, wet and dry public trust strands is prohibited …”

So far, the beach towns in the county have all signed similar orders and cooperated with the county’s orders — but they don’t have to.

State Statute 166A-19.22. actually limits the powers of a state of emergency order issued by a county, giving municipalities the right to choose their own fate.

“The emergency area of a state of emergency declared by a county shall not include any area within the corporate limits of any municipality, or within any area of the county over which a municipality has jurisdiction to enact general police-power ordinances, unless the municipality’s governing body or mayor consents to or requests the state of emergency’s application. Such an extension may be with respect to one or more of the prohibitions and restrictions imposed in that county pursuant to the authority granted in G.S. 166A-19.31 and need not be with respect to all prohibitions and restrictions authorized by that section,” according to the law.

This means, that while some municipal leaders have alluded to the beach closures being out of their hands since the county orders have closed the beaches — that is simply not accurate.

At the time of publication, the town has not responded to questions regarding the mayor’s statements and when to expect more information but when it becomes available, we will provide it to our readers.

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