A local man whose trespassing arrest at a Duck beach access sparked a social media frenzy earlier this year is now suing the town and the property association denying the public access.
Bob Hovey, owner of Duck Village Outfitters, is awaiting trial on a misdemeanor trespassing charge after two people, both using profanity, confronted him May 29 at the Sea Breeze Drive walkway to the beach. Hovey videotaped that confrontation, and another a few days prior. He posted the videos on Facebook, and they quickly went viral.
“Yesterday I believe I became the first person in the history of Duck to get arrested for going to the beach,” Hovey wrote on Facebook at the time. “I recorded two separate instances where I was harassed and on the later incident arrested and taken to jail.”
In a statement, the Town of Duck said there are no public beach access points in the town — all are privately owned and maintained.
Hovey has for years rallied against the legality of those private accesses, saying the Sand Dollar Shores access in particular has a dedicated public easement.
In a lawsuit filed in Dare County Superior Court this week, Hovey contends that the shoulders and sidewalks adjacent to the beach access and the beach adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean are “all indisputably public lands that anyone can use without permission from a private citizen adjoining said lands.”
But, according to the suit, the homeowners of Sand Dollar Shores in 2015 signed a covenant declaration claiming to make the beach access a common area for exclusive use of HOA members.
Hovey’s suit says the nearby home he owns with his wife was subsequently dropped from the Brindley Beach rental program due to lack of access, leading to a loss of income.
Despite this, the public has continued to use the Sand Dollar Shores beach access for years. Until his arrest.
The lawsuit claims that back in 1981, when the roads and easements in Sand Dollar Shores were dedicated to the public, individual lot owners were without authority to declare the beach access private. The suit says the Town of Duck has an “affirmative duty to protect the public’s right to use said easement instead of enforcing HOA’s claims.”
The suit asks for the court to declare the beach access public.
This is the second time Hovey had sued over Duck beach access, but the first case in 2017 was dismissed. Hovey said he didn’t have the financial means to continue to fight the town in court.
He said he filed the new lawsuit due to “overwhelming financial support and encouragement.”