NC beach town continues legal fight with jet ski rental business

North Carolina news

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WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) – The legal battle between a jet ski rental company and the Town of Wrightsville Beach continues after more than a year without incident.

For about two decades, Chris Mangum and his predecessor have used the boat launch ramp in Wrightsville Beach for jet ski rentals; however, a few years ago, the town decided it didn’t want Mangum using it anymore.

In an effort to get him to stop, the town issued Mangum citations and eventually took him to court but, according to Mangum, and the state of North Carolina, whether or not he can use the ramp is is not up to the town because it is owned and operated by the state.

A consent judgment was signed that forbids Mangum from operating on the property but Mangum says that order should have never even been approved due to the fact that the land is state property, not the town’s.

“The judgment is void because the town has zero jurisdiction, therefore the Superior Court had no right to entertain any claim by the town. And they did. Not once, but twice, same judge, two different companies,” Mangum said.

The state has also weighed in on the matter and confirmed that the town has no jurisdiction over its property.

“All of our Boating Access Areas are open to the public 24/7 and anyone is allowed to launch from these sites, assuming they follow the regulation posted on our website at: https://www.ncwildlife.org/Boating/Laws-Safety/Boating-Access-Area-Regulations,” NC Wildlife Resources Commission Communications Specialist Ryan Kennemur said in an email to Port City Daily.

“That being said, jet ski rental companies can use the ramp. Since the Wrightsville Beach property is owned wholly by Wildlife Commission, the town has no jurisdiction at this BAA,” Kennemur added.

However, the town maintains its position that Mangum cannot use the ramp and in a letter sent in early July of 2021, it was made clear they want him to stop.

“It has been brought to my attention that the town has evidence that you are continuing to violate the terms of the consent judgment. You are hereby directed to immediately cease and desist from engaging in any activity that violates the terms of the consent judgment. If you do not immediately cease and desist from engaging in such activity the town will have no choice but to bring this matter back before the court to secure your compliance with the consent judgment,” Town Attorney Brian Edes wrote.

But, Mangum is not deterred.

“I am not going to pay the money, I am going to keep renting jet skis, and the town has two options: they can throw an innocent person in jail, or they can forget this whole thing and it will prove once and for all they are in the wrong. The law is clear — they do not have jurisdiction,” he said.

Mangum knows that he is at risk of more legal action, including possibly losing his freedom.

“If the town puts me in jail, I will sell my jet skis for one dollar to my friend so the jet skis will remain at Wrightsville Beach, and then when I get out of jail, I will set up a kayak business, make the town give me another illegal ticket, and we’ll start this process all over again,” Mangum said.

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