- Published on Thursday, 16 August 2012 22:47
- Written by Super User
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
The Carolina Beach Town Council voted to adopt a beach smoking ban at their August 14, meeting. The ban will not actually begin until the Town can request permission through approval of the North Carolina Legislature. The legislature doesn't begin their next session until January of next year.
The legislature should consider the Town's request carefully. Legislators will undoubtedly identify the issue at hand does not only affect Carolina Beach. It concerns every beach town on the North Carolina coast.
State Session Law 2009-27 states a local government may adopt a smoking ban on local government “grounds.” The law defines "Grounds" as an “unenclosed area owned, leased, or occupied by State or local government.”
The issue centers largely on ownership – or title to – the beach for it to be considered “local government grounds” similar to government owned parks or buildings. A 1985 law says, “Notwithstanding the other provisions of this section, the title to land in or immediately along the Atlantic Ocean raised above the mean high water mark by publicly financed projects which involve hydraulic dredging or other deposition of spoil materials or sand vests in the State. Title to such lands raised through projects that received no public funding vests in the adjacent littoral proprietor. All such raised lands shall remain open to the free use and enjoyment of the people of the State, consistent with the public trust rights in ocean beaches, which rights are part of the common heritage of the people of this State.”
The Town's attorney advised Council they don't have authority to enact such a ban because of the 1985 law which says renourished beaches belong to the state and therefore cannot be "local government grounds."
The 2009 smoking law adopted by the legislature makes no mention of "beach" when defining areas where smoking can be banned. Therefore, if the legislature is to consider legislation permitting a ban for one town, they should make it all-inclusive for all coastal towns.
That typically takes more time in legislative committee reviews, but to take a piecemeal approach to amending the 2009 legislation with a local bill specific to Carolina Beach would be unwise. Give every Town the option to ban it by a vote of their council or through a referendum on the ballot.