Local government controls on travel to the Outer Banks (barrier-beach islands) of North Carolina remain in place, but local officials are making changes to try to head off a court decision on the Constitutionality of their emergency orders restricting free movement.
A month ago, as we reported earlier, Dare County, North Carolina, set up checkpoints on all three roads leading into or out of the county. Police began denying passage along these public rights-of-way on the basis of criteria including whether travelers have government-issued ID (even if they are passengers rather than drivers, or traveling on foot or by bicycle, for which no drivers’ license is needed); what address is shown on their ID (if any — U.S. passports, for example, show no address); which direction they are traveling; and whether they have been sponsored for an “entry permit” by an entity with a business license issued in Dare County.
County officials represented their emergency orders imposing these restrictions on travel as health measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But none of the criteria for who is allowed to pass through the checkpoints, or in which direction, have anything to do with whether travelers were believed, suspected, or likely to be infected with the novel coronavirus.
The emergency orders gave no indication of what, if any, procedures were available for administrative or judicial review of decisions to deny passage in or out of the county. But non-resident owners of homes in Dare County quickly brought suit in Federal court against the prohibition on traveling to their own seasonal, rental, or second homes.
Since then, the case has been referred for mediation, and the parties (non-resident property owners and the Dare County government) have requested and been granted a delay on the basis that they are in negotiations towards a possible settlement.
Today Dare County is beginning to allow passage across the bridges and into the county by non-resident owners of real property in Dare County, if and only if they have both an “entry permit” issued by the county and matching government-issued ID.