If the town officials were parents of certain property owners, they might be saying “Please don’t make me come down there.” After years of discussing intrusions along town street rights of way, Oak Island leaders said they are within weeks of a fair, unified, town-wide crackdown on those abusing them.
Town council has stated it intends to gain better control of the street edges, which have become, in many cases, private gardens, boat trailer parking, fenced areas and other landscaped places for adjacent property owners.
The right of way is reserved for utilities and other public purposes. In many cases on Oak Island, homeowners have treated it like their private property, erecting fences, landscaping and other physical barriers.
Oak Island staff will enforce the ordinance with safety as the top priority. If fences, poles or other barriers create situations where drivers or pedestrians can’t evade a hazard, they will be at the top of the list.
Exceptions to the rules include mailboxes, newspaper boxes, town trees and driveways. However, just because a right of way obstruction isn’t an overt safety hazard doesn’t mean it won’t eventually be dealt with.
The purposes of the town’s latest code enforcement effort, according to staff, are to:
n Eliminate obstructions that create blind spots.
n Improve safety for bicyclists, pedestrians or vehicles that need to veer from the roadway to avoid a collision.
n Remove physical restrictions for parking, walking and bicycling.
n Ensure that infrastructure - such as fire hydrants and electrical junction boxes – has safe, ready access.
n Keep street ends open and free of items that block public access.
n Eliminate hardened surfaces that increase stormwater runoff.
“We’re trying to get the word out,” said Planner Jake Vares. “In a couple of weeks, we are going to methodically go zone by zone through the town and get things out of the right of way.”
Code enforcement officers will initially send letters to property owners where there are issues, Vares said. “It’s going to be a big change,” he said. “We will work with people as long as they work with us.”
Those who ignore the warnings could see town crews removing obstructions and possibly fines, Vares said.
Vares said the state Department of Transportation would also be enforcing its rules along state rights of way, including Long Beach Road, Middleton Avenue, Beach Road and Oak Island Drive.
Items with wheels – including boat trailers, motor homes and recreational vehicles - are the purview of the Police Department (910) 278- 5595. The ordinance allows parking of vehicles and trailers in the right of way for up to 72 hours.