Council votes to allow cabanas in Sunset Beach

Updated: Jan. 6, 2020 at 8:52 PM EST
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SUNSET BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - With a new town council in place, the town of Sunset Beach discussed an issue that has plagued the Brunswick County beach town for years: whether cabanas should be allowed on the beach for the upcoming season.

On Monday, council voted four to one to allow cabanas on the beach and also allow cabana vendors. Councilwoman Jan Harris was the only member to vote against the measure.

The town first passed regulations regarding cabanas in March 2014, specifically requiring that cabanas and other similar structures be located at least 12 feet from the front dune line, no larger than 12 feet by 12 feet, separated by a minimum of ten feet and that tie downs or anchors be located within the foot print.

The town later amended its ordinance to require structures be placed in a single line perpendicular to the ocean, preventing multiple rows of cabanas between the dunes and the water.

Though council members first discussed banning cabanas in February 2016, an official ban, albeit a short one, on cabanas and shading tents wasn’t enacted until November of that year. Just three weeks later, the town reversed its position, at least in part because of inaccurate information on the number of beaches that permitted cabanas presented during the November meeting by council members in favor of a ban.

Since then, the council has amended its ordinance three times, prohibiting commercial cabana vendors from erecting or removing structures for their customers along the way, with the latest amendment increasing the fine for violations of that rule from $75 to $250 per infraction.

Mayor Pro-Tem John Corbett, the only member of the current council who held a seat when the short-lived ban was enacted (Corbett voted against the ban at the time, according to meeting minutes), proposed discussing the issue, according to the agenda packet for Monday’s meeting.

“With a new council in place, the council should review the cabana issue and reach a consensus on any adjustments or changes that should be made to the current rules,” a report from Corbett to the mayor and other council members states.

The agenda listed several items council members were expected to discuss:

1. Should cabanas (i.e., tents, shading devices, canopies) continue to be permitted on the Sunset Beach strand?

2. If continued, should commercial vendors be allowed to erect and take down cabanas on behalf of customers?

3. If commercial vendors are permitted, what specific rules for vendors should be applied? For example:

Corbett’s report recommended council vote on at least the first and second items during Monday’s meeting and either vote on or table for future discussion specific portions of the third topic.

A special meeting has been scheduled at 11:15 a.m. on Thursday to discuss enforcement and other concerns.

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