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' Doing Their Job ' When
Span Opens On Demand
HY SUSAN USHER
When is an apparent pleasure boat not a pleasure
When the captain says it's a commercial vessel,
lhat's the situation bridgetenders with the N.C.
Department of Transportation find themselves facing not
only at the Sunset Beach Bridge, but at other bridges
aCrOSS uiC SiatC thai follow alt uOUfly Opening Sclieuule.
At Sunset Beach, the pontoon bridge swings opens
to pleasure craft on the Hour from / a.m. to 7 p.m., and
on demand from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. By law it must open
even from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on demand to commercial or
government vessels, or in an emergency.
The awkwardness of the rules situation was brought
home iast week when the Sunset Beach VFD was re
sponding to a fin* on the island. A scan of the Atlantic
Intracoasta) Waterway showed only a "pleasure boat" on
the water approaching the bridge, so firefighters didn't
think they needed to call ahead and alert the brid
getendcr of their imminent crossing. Arriving at the
bridge, they found it had opened to allow passage of
what they thought was a pleasure craft.
"It's the same way up and down the coast." said
Robert Cox, district bridge maintenance superintendent.
"By law we can't question whether they arc commercial
or pleasure. If a boat comes up and ID's itself as a com
mercial vessel, we have iu lei iheiii iluuu^ii. The bfiu
getenders arc just doing their job.
"A lot of people make a living taking people fishing
on their yachts."
The bridge is required to post signs noting that it
opens on demand to government and commercial ves
An approaching boat captain can contact the brid
getender by radio, horn or flag. If the contact is by radio,
the tender advises that the bridge opens on the hour for
"Just as soon as they hear that, they say, 'Well, I'm a
What the bridgetenders can, and on occasion, do is
write up a "report of violation" on a vessel they suspect
is not what it claims to be; any vessel that is commercial
is supposed to be licensed as such. Then it is up to the
Coast Guard to investigate. If the boat is licensed in
North Guuiiiia, u>c local Coast Guard looks into it; if
not, the complaint may never be investigated, said Cox.
The bridge division typically never hears back if the
vessel is commercial. The only exception in this area of
which Cox is aware was at Wrightsville Beach a few
years ago, when the division was notified it did not have
to open on demand for the vessel. None of the reports
turned in from the Sunset Beach Bridge have resulted in
such a determination.
"We're just trying to do the best we can," said Cox.
'There's no way to win, whatsoever."
When the tender opens the bridge for what appears
to be a pleasure boat, highway motorists get iiritated.
When boat captains arc questioned about whether their
vessels are commercial, that prompts ire as well.
The situation has improved since the state went to
the hourly openings for pleasure craft three or four years
ago. Cox indicated. Back then, the openings were "a
constant thing all day long."
"The system works, but it's not a perfect solution,"
A partial solution to the problem, he suggested,
would be to change the boat idcnufication numbers for
commercial vessels licensed in North Carolina, perhaps
requiring visibly larger numbers on the boat or using a
different color, red instead of black. Then bridgetenders
could tell on sight which vessels are commercial cr plea
That wouldn't help, though, with boats registered
out of state.
HO AG S< SUNS BOOK BINDERY
P.O. BOX 162
SPR I NGF'ORT MI 49284
Thirtieth Year, Number 36
?ltv? THt MUNSWICK BEACON
Shollotte, North Carolina, Thursday, July 9, 1992
50c Per Copy
40 Pages, 3 Sections, 1 Insert
Consultant Offers To Revise
I Wording Of Land Use Plan
BY ERIC CARLSON
The author of a draft land use
plan criticized for its comments on
mobile home dwellers explained,
but came short of apologizing for,
his comments at a requested appear
ance before the Brunswick County
Planning consultant Glenn Har
beck of Wilmington had been asked
*a ovpinjn iKo remark st the cornmis~
sioners' meeting after several mobile
home owners came to a Brunswick
County Planning Board meeting to
take issue with his description.
Commissioners said they had re
ceived numerous phone calls from
residents of manufactured housing
who complained about the state
ments made by the consultant hired
by the county to update its CAMA
land use plan.
Background material in the plan
described mobile home residents as
generally poorer and less educated
than owners of stick-built houses.
The information was prelude to a
?. policy statement recommending that
the county diversify its housing to
include more single- and multi-fami
ly homes, especially in areas expect
ed to become urban or suburban
within 10 years.
"I'm glad the plan got some atten
tion," Harbeck told the board. "I'm
just sorry it got attention in this
"I don't think he
changed his mind .
He was more sorry
about it being
about saying it "
Mobile home owner
Harbeck emphasized that the re
marks were made in a preliminary
draft of the plan and "were not in
tended to be critical of people who
live in different types of housing."
He said he was willing to revise
the plan "to strike any language any
one might find offensive."
The draft plan had been targeted
for planning board review, Harbeck
said, "to get input before public dis
The planning department provid
ed copies of the proposed update to
area newspapers, which published
excerpts from the plan.
The land use plan notes that more
than 4,000 of the 5,000 building per
mits issued for residential structures
in 1991 were for the placement of
manufactured housing, or mobile
"From an economic development
perspective, it is an unfortunate tru
ism that the occupants of manufac
tured homes are less educated and
have lower incomes, on average,
than occupants of site-built, single
family homes," the draft stated.
"The addition of this many mobile
homes has implications for the
county's tax base, education and
quality of the labor force."
Criticism also has been leveled at
Harbcck for statements in the plan
calling for more golf courses, mari
nas, oceanfrcmt resorts and equestri
an facilities rather than "cheap t
shirt shops, fast food outlets and
other low-end attractions."
Harbcck said the remarks were
not intended to discourage the latter,
but to encourage the former. He said
the comments reflected a planning
board goal of making sure
Brunswick County does not rely
completely on a "subsistence level"
"The planning board's concern
wa3, if tourism is going to be a ma
jor economic force in the county,
how can we make tourism better for
the citizens of the county?" Harbeck
"We're not encouraging high-dol
lar attractions for the tourists instead
of the locals. We want to emphasize
(See LAND, Page 2-A)
America's Favorite Couple
Sarah Hayes and Tyler Pendry of Trinity portrayed Miss Liberty and Uncle Sam in the Scotland Street
Parade at Ocean Isle Beach Saturday. Story and photos about Independence Day celebrations in
Rrunewi/'Ir /?r/? n* / *
Brunswick County are on Page 6-A.
IKI CIV HAVC
1 1 ^ jia i j
Three Deaths Ruled Suicide ,
Fourth Called An Attempt
Three Brunswick County resi
dents are dead and another was in
critical condition Tuesday after four
apparent suicides within six days.
Authorities believe three men
shot themselves in the head and an
other jumped off a bridge in four un
related incidents in Leland, Yaupon
Beach and Ash.
Herman Hicks, 68, of Yaupon
Beach remained in the trauma unit at
New Hanover Regional Medical
Center Tuesday after shooting him
self twice in the head last Thursday
(July 2), according to Police Chief
Hicks was found by his son on the
bedruom floor of their home at 214
Norton St., Hickman said. A ,32-cal
iber semi-automatic pistol was
Hicks had apparently aimed high
and grazed his head with the first
shot, then fired another, Hickman
The son told police that Hicks had
moved to the area from Jamestown
about five montfis ago and had been
very depressed recently, the chief
The Slate Bureau of Investigation
and the Brunswick County Sheriffs
Department helped Yaupon Beach
examine the scene of the shooting.
There was no evidence that the
wounds were not self-inflicted,
At about 7:30 ajn. Monday, sher
iffs deputies answered a 911 call
from a trailer at Lot 11 of the
Shadow Oaks Mobile Home Park
off Mount Misery Road in Leland,
according to CapL Phil Perry.
They found Kenneth W. Stewart
laying face-up across his bed with a
.22-caliber pistol nearby. There was
evidence he had been drinking,
Perry said an autopsy Tuesday in
dicated that Stewart died of a self
inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Just one week before his 23rd
birthday, Donald Lee Daniels of
Route 1, Ash, was found dead of an
apparent self-inflicted gunshot
wound to the head, Perry said.
(See POLICE, Page 2-A)
Four Injured In Bypass Accident |
BY DOUG RUTTER
Four people received minor injuries in a three-car
accident last week at the intersection of the U.S. 17
Shallotte bypass and N.C. 130.
The wreck happened last Thursday at 8:30 p.m.
when a vehicle traveling south on the bypass failed to
stop for a red light, according to police.
A 1984 Nissan collided with a 1985 Toyota that
was crossing the bypass on N.C. 130, knocking it into
another vehicle stopped at the intersection.
"It could have been a real nasty accident," said
Shallotte Police Ptl. Kay Altizer. "It the impact had
occurred a split second sooner, we could have had a
It was the fourth serious accident at the dangerous
crossroad, which was the site of a double fatality last
fall. State transportation officials plan to build an
overpass there by 1996.
Following last week's wreck, Altizer charged
Patrick H. McMahon, 21, of Bombay, N.Y., with fail
ure to stop for a red light He was driving a Nissan
south on the bypass, according to the officer's report.
The Nissan 300ZX struck a Toyota driven by
Bobby Gene Inman, 22, of Routel, Longwood.
Inman's vehicle was headed west on N.C. 130.
After the initial impact, the Toyota collided with a
1983 Isuzu pickup truck driven by Roy Vance
Morgan, 50, of Routel, Winnabow. Morgan's truck
was stopped on N.C. 130 on the west side of the inter
Altizer said some cantaloupes in the back of
Morgan's truck spilled out on the highway on impact.
"They had a mess up there," he said.
Inman, Morgan and one passenger in each of their
vehicles were injured. All four were treated at The
Brunswick Hospital in Supply.
Altizer said all three vehicles were totaled in the
wreck, which was the seventh to the occur at the in
tersection since the bypass opened last May.
In all four of the serious accidents there, vehicles
traveling on the bypass have failed to stop for a red
"It's a top concern for us," Altizer said of the in
tersection. "It's a major accident point, and it's get
ting worse with the traffic."
On Nov. 1, 1991, Steve Smith of Ash and Misty
Carmichael of Shallotte were killed when a log truck
ran a red light and hit cars they were driving.
The deaths fueled community support for an over
pass at the intersection, which was discussed but nev
er included in plans for the long-awaited bypass.
The N.C. Department of Transportation has since
made safety improvements at the crossroad and plans
to build an overpass so N.C. 130 goes over U.S. 17.
Construction isn't expected to begin unul early
1994, however, and the interchange will take 18
months to build.
Supreme Court Ruling Affects Local Land,
Beach Access Measure
BY LYNN CARLSON
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week strengthen
ing private property rights could have profound implica
tions for coastal property owners.
It also could have a chilling effect on the future of a
state bill designed to codify common law guaranteeing
public access to the "dry-sand beach" between the toe of
the dunes and the high-tide mark.
The court ruled that a South Carolina oceanfront
property owner was due compensation by the state,
which two years after the man paid nearly SI million for
two lots, enacted legislation rendering them unbuildable
because they were subject to erosion. The majority opin
ion said the state had violated the owner's Fifth
Amendment rights ? not to have property taken for pub
lic use without just compensation ? unless it can show
that restraints on the property existed under law when it
The ruling was obscured by the more controversial
Supreme Court abortion ruling, ssiso issued last Friday.
In a column published Sunday, conservative writer
George Will said the Supreme Court ruling "strength
encd the right thai is most important for the protection of
privacy ? the right to private property."
Daniel McLawhorn, special deputy attorney general
for the N.C. Department of Justice, said that while the
Supreme Court's ruling was based on a South Carolina
law involving a "different, broader type of beach zone,"
its principles might be applied the same to a bill current
ly before two committees of the N.C. Senate.
That bill, authored by Rep. Bruce Ethridge, D
Carteret, seeks to codify, or put into written law, the
common law premise that while the public owns the
beach from the high-tide mark to the ocean, it also has
an access right to the "dry-sand beach" between the
vfirst line of stable natural vegetation" and the high-tide
According to McLawhorn, the high court "has said
it's not going to pay much attention to such declarsuinns,
but to the law that underlies them." The question, he ex
plained, is whether it can be established that such com
mon Saw exists.
Rep. David Rcdwinc, D-Brunswick, said that while
the House, which passed the access bill before the
Supreme Court ruling came down, has not debated the
ruling's effect on the bill, he's hearing from oceanfront
property owners back home who fear they could lose the
right to replenish their dunes when erosion occurs.
Consequently, he has submitted an amendment to
Sen. R.C. Soles, D-Columbus, "which would make it
clear that the biii not be construed iu prohibit beach re
plenishment or rcvcgctation to the extent that it is al
ready allowed under existing statutes."
However, the bill is not expected to be acted upon in
the current legislative session, which could end later this
"I've heard some concern from constituents, ocean
front property owners, lhat where the first line of vegeta
tion is in front of the dune, and the dune goes in a hurri
cane or northeaster, thai once the dune is gone, they
would not be able to replenish it and would lose lhat
property to the public."
He said his amendment would "clear up the fact that
a person would be allowed to get a permit and revege
taie his dunes" when they erode.
Redwine added, "No one who has expressed con
cems to inc is in favor of hardening the beach. I've not
heard that from anybody, anywhere in the proceedings."
He was responding to news articles published earlier this
week staling that opponents of the bill wish to amend it
to allow such "hardened" erosion control structures as
seawalls and jetties.
Only lawsuits will establish whether North Carolina
property owners who lose property to the public, or who
have been denied the right to use their properties, will be
eligible for compensation under the Supreme Court rul
"There's certainly the potential for the it to be ap
plied in North Carolina cases," according to
Mc La whom, who said he knows of no specific
Brunswick County cases under consideration which
would be affected. "While the bill in the Senate takes
action in front of the first line of the dune, the South
Carolina bill went much further. But the premises are
Meanwhile, he added, "I'm sure that people who re
quested permits to use their property and got turned
down will be consulting their lawyers."