OAK ISLAND, NC (WECT) – A controversy is brewing over the legality of allowing cabanas on the beach in Oak Island. Many are upset because a suggestion was made to town council to ban all tents and canopies from the beach. Now, town staff is exploring the viability of that suggestion.
Some say the plan could have a negative effect on tourism.
Right now, Oak Island town rules state that tents and canopies like this have to be removed from the beach by sunset. But some town leaders say the tents are starting to cause problems because of the recent increase in population. Now, town staff is working with local agencies – considering new rules including banning them from the beach altogether. But some folks say that's a bad idea. Bettie Thorne has lived on the island for nearly 20 years.
"It seems anti-tourism to me," said Thorne. "Tourism is the life blood here and to do something that would drive tourism away sounds counter-productive."
Recently, council directed town staff to consider stricter rules for allowing tents and canopies on the beach. But people like Thorne say that eliminating the use of beach tents and canopies would cause problems for loyal beach-goers.
"We have older people and grandparents who come," said Thorne. "People come with kids and pets and nobody wants to sit on the beach all day without any respite."
Recent legislation gives beach towns the ability to enforce all ordinances on the beach.
"The better course of action would be to leave the ordinance as they are and use new enforcement tools," said Thorne. "Let's see if we can't make it work for everybody instead of punishing everyone for the missteps of a few."
Town Councilman, Jeff Winecoff said he doesn't want to ban the tents from the beach. He said the majority of council feel the same way. However, Winecoff says the tents left on the beach create a safety issue for those who walk the beach at night and emergency workers who patrol the beach.
The next step is for town staff to meet with members of the Beach Preservation Society later this week. A final decision is expected to come from town council in the next few months.
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