APPEAL OF SUNSET BEACH BRIDGE DECISION DROPPED
DOT Will Study Environmental Impact Of Proposed
BY SUSAN USHER
Slate and federal transportation officials have drop
ped plans to appeal a January court ruling that halted
construction of a planned high-rise bridge at Sunset
Instead, state Transportation Secretary Thomas J.
Harrelson announced Friday that it will instead under
take an environmental impact study as U.S. Eastern
District Judge W. Earl Brill had originally ordered in
his 1990 decision.
The U.S. Justicc Department was to file notice of
dismissal of the joint appeal Monday in the 4th Circuit
Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., said Jaun Santos, a
Harrelson said the decision to proceed with the
study came after learning the federal government had
decided not 10 appeal the court ruling. Defense briefs in
the case were to have been submitted this week.
"We're willing lo do whatever il lakes lo provide
appropriate environmental documentation," Harrclson
said in a news release. "We're will
ing to do the environmental impact
statement. We already have a lot of
environmental information, but
we'll provide whatever time il takes
to gel additional data."
The Sunset Beach Taxpayers
Association and eight individual
defendants had filed suit against
state and federal transportation offi
cials in an attempt to hall construc
tion of the bridge. Their concerns
included impact of the bridge on recreational use of the
beach as well as on the habitat of the wood stork and
other endangered species.
Citing inadequacies in the original environmental
sludy made in ihc mid 1970s, Britt directed completion
of a full study on the environmental impact of the
bridge and voided all permits for the project. That
means the state will have to reapply for project permits
from various state and federal agencies.
In February Britt denied a request to reconsider
three points of his decision. That was when state and
federal transportation officials announced plans to
appeal the original order.
Clctus "Clctc" Waldmiller, president of the Sunset
Beach Taxpayers Association, said Monday that the
decision to drop the appeal "was kind of what 1 was
hoping would happen, that they wouldn't drag it out
through the courts and increase the costs. That's fine."
DOT officials are predicting that completion of the
study could delay construction of a new bridge for as
long as three years.
Harrelson said he and other transportation officials
remain conccrncd aboul the potential lor interrupted
servicc to the island at Sunset Beach.
The existing pontoon bridge thai links the island
and mainland was knocked out in 1985 when it was
struck by a runaway barge that caused about SI66.000
in damages. The one-lane, 506-foot bridge was hit
again in 1987 by a tug.
"I don't believe the current bridge is completely
safe and reliable," said Harrelson. "I know that local
governments and emergency squads share the same
concerns. But we'll do the best we can to keep it main
tained and in working order."
The original pontoon bridge was built in the mid
1950s by a private developer.
Construction was to have begun on (he high-rise
bridge last September.
Sunset Beach Mayor Mason Barber w as out of tow n
Monday and could not be reached lor comment.
, HOAG & SONS BOOK BINDERY
lT 1 2731/93
Vgg^^nth Veor, Numh0f 33 PO BOX 162 Wj
? ? CI"I thc b*un; SPRIN6P0RT Ml 43284
? ? June 20, 1991 25C Per Copy 42 Pages, 4 Sections Including Supplement, 1 Insert f
OTHER COUNTY EMPLOYEES TO GET RAISES
Commissioners Cut Clerk, 4 Other Jobs
STAff rHOTO fY DOUG *UT7E?
The shrimpboat Miss Virginia chugs west along the Atlantic Intra
coastal Waterway near Ocean Isle Beach last Wednesday night.
Longwood Man Charged In Shooting
BY DOUG R UTTER
A Long wood man was arrested
last week after he allegedly shot and
injured two local men with a 12
gaugc semi-automatic shotgun.
The shooting occurred last Wed
nesday around 11:12 p.m. on Little
Prong Road near the Columbus
County line, said Ll Donnell Mar
lowe of the Brunswick County
Dexter Woodring Hughes Jr., 41,
of Longwood has been charged with
two counts of assault with a deadly
weapon with intent to kill inflicting
serious bodily injury.
The suspcct was released from
Brunswick County Jail last Thurs
day after posting SI 2,000 bond. His
first appcarancc in court is sched
uled June 24.
One of the shooting victims, a
45-year-old resident of the Ash
community, was listed in serious
condition Tuesday at New Hanover
Medical Center in Wilmington.
A sheriff's department report said
part of the man's right hand was
shot off and he was shot in the right
The other victim, who is 30 years
old and also from Ash, was shot in
both legs, the left hand, right arm
and the right side of his chest, ac
cording to the report. He was re
leased from The Brunswick Hospit
al at Supply last Friday.
(See LONGWOOD, Page 2-A)
BY SUSAN USHER
In a series of voles along a now
familiar 3-2 split, Brunswick
County Commissioners Monday
decided to eliminate the salary of
the clerk to the board from next
year's budget as well as salaries of
four other jobs.
The board expects to consider
next year's $35 million budget, with
the changes included, when it meets
Friday, June 28, at 9 a.m. in its
Voting with Commissioner Jerry
Jones for the cuts were Chairman
Kelly Holden and Commissioner
Donald Shaw. Voting against them
were Commissioners Gene
Pinkcrton and Frankic Rabon. Since
the votes were taken during a work
shop they were not official .
Chairman Kelly Holden said after
the meeting that the cuts were a log
ical follow-through to the recom
mendations made in a recently com
missioned water system study
regarding top heaviness.
"With less than 50 employees
you need no assistant managers in
the chain of command," said
Holden. "I think we've had loo
many people in the upper chain of
command .for loo long."
Other existing positions to be
eliminated are those of assistant
director of operations/water man
agement coordinator, held by Pearly
Vereen of Exum, a former county
commissioner; and environmental
health supervisor I in the Brunswick
County Health Department, held by
Gary McDonald of Supply. The post
involves field supervision of sani
tarians conducting site tests for sep
tic tank suitability.
Also, the board will eliminate
one of the four new housekeeping
positions and a new finance office
position included in the proposed
The position that Rcgina
Alexander of Southport has held for
the past 15 years will be eliminated
and her duties as clerk reassigned to
the county manager's secretary,
Mrs. Alexander is black and Mrs.
Barefoot is white. Commissioners
who voted for the move said neither
race nor political party affiliation
figured in the personnel decisions.
Holdcn pointed out that the all
Republican board hired a county
manager, Clegg, who is a Democrat.
"Where else in North Carolina have
you seen that happen?" he asked.
'The message this board is send
ing out is not creationist," Holdcn
said later. Though it "may" have
been done in the past, he said,
"We're not rewarding political sup
porters with jobs. We're letting the
manager handle personnel in a pro
Liking or not liking the individu
als had nothing to do with the deci
sion, either, he said. "Liking some
one is no justification for rewarding
them with a job or letting them keep
their job if it is no longer needed or
Mrs. Alexander, a county
employee for the past 17 years, was
at her post when board members
voted to eliminate her salary.
"I've made that job," she said,
"and I've been an outstanding
But she said the board has the
right to do as it chooses regarding
the position. Like the county man
ager and county attorney, the clerk
serves at the pleasure of the board.
County Manager David Clegg
said the move came as "a complete
surprise" to him.
Commissioner Jerry Jones, who
made the scries of motions, said he
studied the budget "long and hard"
Pinkcrton questioned elimination
of the clerk's job at a time when the
county manager has asked for more,
not less, in administration. A new
secretarial position is included in
the proposed budget
While not agreeing that any cuts
should be made, Rabon said the first
position to be considered should
have been that of the assistant clerk,
not the clerk.
Rabon, who in the past has advo
cated elimination of positions in
county government, said his new
stancc reflects changing circum
"The need (for the personnel) is
there more so than three years ago,"
he said, citing county growth.
While he felt the recent water
system study could have been done
in-house, Rabon said he agreed with
its recommendations regarding
upper management. "It's hard to cut
people today, but also I don't
believe in keeping people around
just because they're there, when
they aren't needed."
In a motion by Holden, commis
sioners voted 3-2 to merge the posi
tion of soil scientist into a new engi
neering department technician post
included in the proposed budget.
Walt Marley would no longer serve
as a "lobbyist" for county commis
sioners, said Holden.
"He would no longer be involved
in giving second opinions on
whether a lot will perk," said
Holden, noting that the sanitarian
had the final say now regardless.
Marley would continue working
on special projects such as obtain
ing permits for solid waste disposal
sites, gathering data for use in
defending cases taken to the
Property Tax Commission and
working with the planning and
health departments on preliminary
subdivision plat reviews.
Employee Raises Set
All county employees would
receive TA percent pay increases in
the new budget under a motion
made by and informally approved
on a vote.
While saying employees
deserved the raises. Commissioner
Donald Shaw said he would prefer
to wait and see what the state docs
for its employees. The school sys
tem will give its locally-paid
employees the same raises state
Commissioners also agreed to
increase the county's share of the
increased cost of employee insur
ance benefits by another SI 39,265.
In a related motion, the board
also approved on a 3-2 vote an ordi
nancc creating a performance evalu
ation system. Formal evaluations
completed during the coming year
would serve as the baseline for
evaluations made the fiscal year that
begins July 1, 1992, at which
employees would be considered for
merit raises under a proposed sys
tem that commissioners said has
won mixed reviews from employ
Rabon said he objected to the
plan because of its committee struc
turing, that only a department head
can do a fair evaluation of employ
Chairman Holdcn said the sys
tem is a "starling point" that can be
changed as it is developed.
A lund of S365.000 set aside to
cover the merit pay system next
year would instead be used to fund
across-the-board raises and insur
Transfers Don't Fly
Board members rejected, on the
same 2-3 split, a scries of budget
transfers proposed by Pinkcrton. lie
wanted S5,4(X) moved from the
Commission budget to North
Carolina Marine Crescent, noting
the regional agency's support of
maritime-related projects in the
He also wanted to move S25.300
to the Brunswick Community
College budget, saying that would
give it a 5 percent increase. He
wanted S2.300 to come from a
printer already purchased for the
county administrative offices;
S9.150 from the RDC; and SI 3.700
from capital reserves.
Commissioners expressed reluc
tance to "dabble" in the reserve.
The board also heard and look no
action on: 1) a plea from Yah well
Center to reconsider its decision not
to give the center any of the
$10, (XX) it hail requested; and 2) a
request to consider increasing the
budget for advanced life support
services by $125,400 to insure a
minimum standard of 24-hour ser
DEVELOPERS WILL CONTINUE OPPOSITION
Citizens' Group Wins New Trial In Holden Beach Public Access Dispute
BY SUSAN USHKR
Last Wednesday Concerned
Citizens of Brunswick County won
a significant victory in their six-year
public access dispute with the
developers of Holden Beach West
when the N.C. Supreme reversed a
lower court's ruling and ordered a
"We're just tickled to death. It
feels great," said Raymond Cope, a
Lexington resident and part-time
Holden Beach area resident who
was active in forming the citizens'
group. "We're poor as church mice,
but it's worth every cent it's cost.
We're going to get a new trial."
Meanwhile, an attorney for
Holden Beach Enterprises Inc.,
developers of the subdivision, said
Tuesday they plan to continue
opposing the effort to gain perma
nent public beach access across the
west end island tract.
Vaiden P. Kendrick, of the
Wilmington law firm of Murchison,
Taylor, Kendrick, Gibson &
Davenport, is one of the attorneys
representing the development firm
in the case.
"We will continue to oppose this
lawsuit," Kendrick said Tuesday.
"Exactly what steps we will take we
haven't dccided, but we will do
those we think are appropriate."
He did not rule out the possibility
of further action at the appellate
level, which could affect the
remanding of the case for new trial.
James D. (Jim) Griffin Jr. of
Holdcn Beach Enterprises did not
return calls from The Brunswick
Kcndrick said the court's ruling is
"unfortunate" because it leaves
"very much in doubt what lengths a
properly owner must go to (in
order) to protect his property from
intrusion by people who aren't
authorized to go on it" as well as to
protect it from prescriptive ease
Especially when someone lives at
a distance from the property in
question, he said, preventing its use
by others is difficult. He feels the
ruling could serve as precedent in
other, similar property use disputes.
The citizens' group filed suit in
1986, after Holden Beach
Enterprises blocked in July 1985 a
road leading to the west end of
The group, represented by attor
ney Jim Maxwell of Durham,
sought continued access across the
property on the basis of "prescrip
tive easement." Eventually, the state
intervened. Assistant Attorney
General Allen Jcmigan said the
state thought the case significant
because it involves the right of
access to the state's public beaches.
The group argued that while the
road and area at the end of Ocean
Boulevard West might be privately
owned, a general passageway
through the dunes had been estab
lished over the years by the public
seeking access to the ocean strand
and Shallotte Inlet for fishing and
recreation. They contended there
was a sufficient and longstanding
enough pattern of traditional use to
establish a public easement by pre
scription, something akin to squat
In Brunswick County Superior
Court Judge Bruce Briggs ruled in
favor of the developers. That judg
ment was upheld by the N.C. Court
of Appeals in November 1989.
The Supreme Court agreed in
December 1989 to discretionary
review of the case on the single
issue of prescriptive easement. It
heard oral arguments in April 1990.
Last week the court split 4-3 in
vacating the judgment reached by
Judge Brucc Briggs in 1987 and in
reversing the opinion of the N.C.
Court of Appeals that affirmed thai
The Supreme Court is remanding
the case to the Court of Appeals
with instructions to remand it to
Brunswick County Superior Court
"for further proceedings not incon
sistent with this opinion." In decid
ing the case the court will have to
adhere to the findings of the
Supreme Court regarding establish
ment of prescriptive easement.
In its 25-page majority opinion
written by Justice Louis B. Meyer,
the Supreme Court found two ques
tions to be pivotal: whether the path
used by the public in crossing to the
beach was established and whether
public use of the road had continued
without interruption for 20 years.
Standard Said Wrong
It said Briggs' ruling was flawed
because he had applied an "erro
neous standard" in deciding there
was not enough evidence to estab
lish such an easement.
Briggs had determined that a pre
scriptive easement had not been
established due to changcs in the
location of the path and interrup
tions of use during the period in
question by a series of barricades
that included, at various times, a
log, a cable, a farm gate with lock
and key, and in 1985, the staffed
Meyer said the trial judge did not
determine whether there existed
"substantial identity" of the ease
ment claimed. Instead he deter
mined only that the plaintiffs had
failed to show a single "definite
and specific line" of travel. Meyer
said the trial court judge's standard
wasn't appropriate given the
"dynamic" quality of the easement
through shifting dunes.
Further, he said the public's sea
sonal and recurring use was suffi
cient and that the developers'
actions had not entirely prevented
"While continuity of use by the
public is essential (in establishing
prescriptive easement)," he wrote,
"it need not be perpetual and
"The fact that the barricades
placed by the defendant may have
discouraged the use of the pathway
by a few members of the public or
even suspended its use very briefly
by the entire public docs not destroy
the public's continuity of use for the
period necessary lo establish its
right by prescriptive use," wrote
Three Justices Disagreed
Justice Burley Mitchell wrote the
eight-page dissenting opinion, with
the Justices John Webb and Willis
Mitchell wrote that lie thought
the majority erred in holding that
the evidence failed to supj>ori the
trial court's findings and conclu
sions regarding interruption of use
of the road.
He said he agreed with' the trial
court's view "that the plaintiff's
adverse use of the easement assert
ed was interrupted several times and
(See ACCRSS, Page 2-A)
Dining and entertainment
supplement included in