At its Dec. 5 meeting, the Nags Head Board of Commissioners approved new regulations for businesses that provide tents, umbrellas and other beach equipment to people visiting the town's beaches.
The latest measure is part of the town’s effort to address what Commissioner Renee Cahoon has characterized as the problem of visitors to town beaches encountering a "wall of tents" during the summer season.
Passed by a 4-1 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Susie Walters dissenting, the new regulations require that businesses providing beach equipment for visitors obtain a permit from the town's planning director and register the business with the town's tax collector.
The vendors are also required to set up and remove the equipment between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily, limit commercial signage to 144 square inches and place the beach equipment only in locations that do not restrict vehicle, pedestrian or emergency vehicle movement and the work of ocean rescue personnel. Specifically placement is prohibited within 50 feet of public accesses and lifeguard stands.
At the Dec. 5 meeting, Mayor Ben Cahoon said that the regulations represent "a tightrope that towns like Nags Head have to walk, and we have to strike a balance between what preserves the beach as a natural feature and our commerce [providing visitors] reasonable access to the services that they desire."
In registering her opposition, Walters asserted that, "Eighty five percent of the people come here for the beach. Let's not make it hard for them...If we get too heavy-handed, people will go to other towns."
The Dec. 5 vote comes after an ordinance passed in June limiting the size of tents and canopies that can be placed on the beach and requiring the removal of all equipment daily by 8 p.m.
And last month, when the new regulations concerning beach equipment vendors was first proposed, a number of those vendors expressed their concerns about the proposal's timing limitations for setup and removal - between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
The measure that passed last week amended that proposal to allow setup and removal between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., giving the vendors three more hours. Town Manager Cliff Ogburn also said that he hoped the board would allow town personnel "to use some discretion" in enforcing the ordinance.
Acknowledging that there might be additional regulations considered in the future, Nags Head Commissioner Webb Fuller said that better enforcement of tents being removed daily by town staff on a regular basis would go a long way towards "cleaning up [the beaches] and taking care of some of our issues."
He added that, at budget time, the town should remember this and "make sure we have sufficient personnel" to remove individuals' tents left overnight.