State

With Hurricane Irma looming, fast thinking businessman files claim on NC’s new island

View the new island formed in NC's Outer Banks

A new island has formed off the tip of Cape Point in the constantly changing Outer Banks. Named Shelly Island, the sandbar is about a mile long and three football fields wide.
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A new island has formed off the tip of Cape Point in the constantly changing Outer Banks. Named Shelly Island, the sandbar is about a mile long and three football fields wide.

If Hurricane Irma moves up the east coast, it’s entirely likely North Carolina’s newly formed Shelly Island will be wiped out, but that isn’t stopping a quick-thinking businessman from claiming he owns it.

Yes, someone has filed a Quit Claim Deed to the 10-month-old island, despite expert opinions that it’s owned by North Carolina for the time being.

Businessman Kenneth M. Barlow filed the claim with the Dare County Register of Deeds on Aug. 7. It cost him just $26, which is cheap for a nearly mile-long, 27-acre island...or sandbar, as some insist. The deed gives him “all right, title, interest and claim” to the island.

TV station WAVY first reported Barlow’s claim Sept. 5 and revealed Barlow is fully prepared to fight it out with the state

“I own it. It is clear. The story is over,” he told the station.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore officials don’t agree. Superintendent David Hallac has told the Observer the park belongs to either the state or the National Park Service, depending on whether it stays an island or connects to land.

It’s currently being treated as property of North Carolina, under the jurisdiction of Dare County. If the channel fills in and it connects to Hatteras Island, it will likely be the property of the National Park Service, Hallac believes.

In a statement emailed to the Observer, Hallac says he knows of Barlow’s claim and is not commenting on it.

Dare County manager Robert Outten also disagrees with Barlow’s claim. He cites state statutes (North Caroline General Statute 146-d), which say islands formed by nature in navigable waters are the state’s property.

“Because the island borders the National Seashore, there is some question that it might be owned by the National Park Service,” wrote Outten, in an email to the Observer. “I’m not sure if the state and the National Park Service have decided who actually owns it yet, but I understand that they agree that it's one or the other.”

That isn’t discouraging Barlow, who lives on Hatteras Island, reported WAVY. He told the station he agrees the island is in in the domain and jurisdiction of Dare County and North Carolina, but they don’t own it.

Barlow’s plan, according to WAVY, is to plant sea oats later this month to keep the sand piling up, and to stop sand from blowing away

However, that may not help. Experts say hurricane season could easily wipe the island out. Shelly Island began forming last fall, with the help of winds and currents that pushed up the crescent shaped sandbar around Cape Point.

Since then, it has continued to grow. Experts say it could also start shrinking as the winds shift or suddenly disappear, should a strong enough storm hit the coast.

That means Hurricane Irma would decide the question of who owns Shelly Island.

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