The North Carolina Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal of a lower court’s ruling in a civil case involving private property rights and public access to the beach.
The court was expected to hear oral arguments in the Nies v. Emerald Isle case on Jan. 10, 2017, but instead dismissed the case Wednesday.
Gregory and Diane Nies, who had owned a second home on the oceanfront in Emerald Isle, contended that the town used their private property for town vehicle traffic without permission. The Nieses, who sold the home in September, were represented at no cost to them by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a property rights group that had previously vowed to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Beach towns and advocates of the state’s public trust doctrine had said a ruling against Emerald Isle could lead to limitations on public beach access.
The case began in 2011, and Emerald Isle prevailed in Carteret County Superior Court and the state Court of Appeals.
The Nieses had objected to Emerald Isle’s use of a 20-foot lane on the dry sand beach for town vehicles, including police vehicles. The Nieses sued the town, arguing that Emerald Isle’s action amounted to a taking of property without just compensation.
The appeals court affirmed the public’s access to and use of the entire width of the flat-sandy beach, from the base of the dunes to the water.
Town officials released a statement Wednesday saying they were pleased with the decision, “which clarifies the public’s historical and continuing right to use the dry-sand beach (from the base of the dunes to the water) everywhere in North Carolina.”
Emerald Isle received support from the McCrory administration, the state attorney general, governing bodies of every oceanfront county and municipality in North Carolina, business groups, environmental organizations, tourism groups and other public access advocates.
The town said the dismissal was a win for Emerald Isle, “however, it represents a much more important victory for current and future generations of North Carolina residents and visitors who will continue to enjoy the ocean beach experience and build lasting family memories along our beautiful coastline.”