Digest>Archives> May 2004

Editorial: Currituck County officials are threat to lighthouse preservation

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Over the last few years, the Currituck County (NC) government, with the help of some other elected North Carolina officials, have done whatever they can to battle the nonprofit Outer Banks Conservationists (OBC) right to own and operate, for the public's benefit, the historic Currituck Lighthouse.

We thought that the County government would discontinue their childish and mean spirited antics when the United States of America ruled that the OBC are the rightful owner of the lighthouse and not the county government.

County officials now claim that the lighthouse does not have enough parking places and it should be shut down. The lighthouse has 31 parking spaces, which may not sound like many considering that 100,000 people visit the lighthouse each year. But the OBC believes that crowding more visitors on the site and in the lighthouse at any time lessens the visitor experience for everyone. The State is building a Wildlife Center adjacent to the lighthouse and hopefully additional parking can be provided there if it is really needed. However, the county owns plenty of parking in the nearby Whalehead Club, but will not share with the lighthouse.

County officials will also not allow lighthouse visitors to use the adjoining public restrooms even though the restrooms were paid for in part by the lighthouse group. This forced the lighthouse group to bring in porta-potties.

The county also claims that the gift shop, which is owned by the State of North Carolina and operated by the OBC, is operating illegally in a residential zoned area.

The Outer Banks Conservationists believe they are grand-fathered since the lighthouse was opened as a public attraction in 1990 which pre-dates the county's zoning. The county never complained until they lost the battle for ownership of the lighthouse. However, County Commissioner Paul Martin said, in a story by Jeffrey S. Hampton, in the Virginian-Pilot, “There's no such thing as being grand-fathered in this case.” Interestingly, the Currituck County government uses the lighthouse in its logo and on its web site to promote the county.

Does power corrupt? Now that the County Government lost the battle for ownership, why, after 12 years, do they want to pursue the parking space issue? Why do they not want tourists to use the adjoining county washrooms? Why did the county build the washroom next to the lighthouse? Just who did they think was going to use them? What happened to Southern hospitality? One official was reported as saying that the County would still get the lighthouse one way or another. What's next? Will the County say the lighthouse violates height restrictions? The facts are clear. The County should share its parking spaces and washrooms. The County should consider the lighthouse grandfathered in or make a zoning change. It's time the Currituck County Officials let bygones be bygones and allow the OBC keep the lighthouse open for the public's enjoyment without fear of reprisals or legal action.

IF YOU AGREE, THEN WRITE TO THE CURRITUCK COUNTY COMMISSIONERS AND TELL THEM SO.

A mailbox full of letters might convince them to stop their petty, childish antics against the Outer Banks Conservationists.

The Commissioners are:

Eldon L. Miller, Jr.

P.O. Box 127

Moycock, NC 27958

S. Paul O'Neal

893 Waterlily Road

Coinjock, NC 27923

Paul R. Martin

107 White Heron Dr.

Currituck, NC 27929

Gene A. Gregory

232 S. Indiantown Rd

Shawboro, NC 27973

Ernie Bowden

2115 Sandfiddler Road

Corolla, NC 27927

This story appeared in the May 2004 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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