CAROLINA BEACH — In June the Town of Carolina Beach received a complaint from a resident claiming the Town of Carolina Beach’s female lifeguards were in violation of indecent exposure laws for exposing too much skin.
The complaint also alleged that visitors to the town’s beaches were in constant violation of the law by wearing thong bathing suits. Now, the Town Council is preparing to possibly revise the ordinance — and loosen its restrictions.
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In July, the town council asked staff to review the ordinance and after doing so, the staff is presenting a slight revision to the town’s laws.
According to the agenda item, “Upon review of regional comparisons and the state statutes, staff determined that CB is with the minority of coastal towns that places further restriction on indecent exposure than the NCGS [i.e. state statutes].”
When compared to towns like Nags Head, Topsail Island, Wrightsville beach, and about 10 other coastal communities, Carolina Beach was in the minority.
While it might sound like an old, outdated law, the State actually ruled on the topic of wearing thongs in public stating:
“To hold that buttocks are private parts would make criminals of all North Carolinians who appear in public wearing ‘thong’ or ‘g-string’ bikinis or other such skimpy attire during our torrid summer months. Our beaches, lakes, and resort areas are often teeming with such scantily clad vacationers. We simply do not believe that our legislature sought to discourage a practice so commonly engaged in by so many of our people when it enacted N.C.G.S. § 14–190.9.”
So what does that mean for Carolina Beach? Well, according to the UNC School of Government (SOG), towns might not even be able to enact an ordinance stricter than what the state already permits.
“This ruling verifies that it is legal to expose the buttocks on the beach, so long as it does not result in the exposure of genitals or the anus. The UNC SOG released in an article in August of 2016 looking into this issue. They went along to state that, based on one court case and GS 160A-174, towns may not even have the right to have an ordinance in place which is stricter than it already is. Essentially, local ordinances may not actually be able to prohibit the exposure of buttocks,” according to the town’s agenda.
The Town Council will meet Aug 13, 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall, the meeting is open to the public.
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