Oak Island’s Board of Adjustment has recessed a street right of way dispute while the town and a homeowners association attempt to mediate the issue at NE 54th Street.
The issue arises as town officials begin a systematic sweep to discover and remove intrusions and obstructions in road rights of way, starting with those posing obvious safety hazards.
The disagreement over a chain-link fence at the north end of NE 54th Street arose when managers of the Dutchman’s Creek Villas condominiums sought to repair the fence and other damage after Hurricane Florence. The town declined to issue a permit for the fence repairs.
Fences are not allowed in street rights of way. The town contends that the right of way for NE 54th Street is like that of other street ends off Yacht Drive and extends to the water. The town’s position is that it must have access to the stormwater culvert that extends to the water and the fence obstructs that access.
Representatives for the condominiums contend that the town’s right of way stops short of the fence and adjacent walkway that’s part of their private marina. They own the property on both sides of the street end, and also claim land seaward of the street end.
The Board of Adjustment met last Monday to consider whether town staff had properly applied the rules.
Town Planner Jake Vares said he was not against the condos having a fence but the problem was the fence went across the town’s 60-foot street right of way. “We have pipes and other (equipment) that we are unable to service,” he said.
Vares said the condo managers quickly removed a trash dumpster that was also in the street right of way after it was brought to their attention.
Representing the condo owners, attorney Ellen Wortman said the town had not challenged a “withdrawal of dedication” filed by the condos in 2014. “All other street ends off Yacht Drive end at the Intracoastal Waterway,” wrote association representative Kathy McKeithan in a letter to the town. “The street end on 54th Street does not. The marina itself was dug out of high ground long before the condos were here and the property on which it was built included that land. Thus, unlike every other street end, (Dutchman’s Creek Villas) owns the land under the marina and the marina itself is not part of the Intracoastal Waterway.”
Town officials noted there had never been a formal resolution passed by Town Council to abandon the right of way, although it had been requested.
During a break in the quasi-judicial hearing, the parties agreed to mediation. The board voted unanimously to recess the hearing indefinitely, pending the outcome of mediation.