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Wrightsville Beach wins judgment against boat ramp jet ski operator, seeks other enforcement action

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After the Town of Wrightsville Beach won a court battle this week against a jet ski rental business it said was operating outside of zoning restrictions, the town manager said it could take action against other businesses for the same violations.

On Tuesday, a New Hanover County judge ruled that Chris Mangum, the former owner of Wrightsville Beach Jet Ski Rentals, was in contempt of court after town officials testified that he continued to operate the business on public land in Wrightsville Beach, despite not having a physical presence in the town.

The ruling comes after several years of dispute between Mangum and the town, which issued him several citation for performing business operations on public land. While Mangum said he collected payments and took calls at a location in Wilmington over the drawbridge, town officials said he was still performing operational tasks from a location underneath the overpass.

On Tuesday, Town Manager Tim Owens, the town’s park ranger, and a police official testified that Mangum was still operating the business, despite signing a consent decree agreeing not to operate on the public area by the Wrightsville Beach Boat Ramp.

The judge issued Mangum a $2,500 fine and ordered him to pay $1,000 in court costs, Owens said, with a 30-day deadline for payment that will result in jail time if unmet.

The contempt of court ruling follows more than two years of dispute between the business and the town. In a May presentation to the town, Mangum said he had received eight citation in 2015 and another 14 in 2016. During that period, town officials said that Mangum would launch the jet skis from underneath the bridge, where there is less traffic than the nearby boat ramp.

Earlier this year, Mangum agreed to settle more than $2,900 in citations on the condition that he not operate the business from public grounds, with the

Owens said that while Mangum had agreed to stop running the business from under the bridge, town officials found he was still conducting operations from the spot, despite launching the jet skis from the boat ramp. Owens added that while Mangum sold the business to another operator, he still had directly involved in operation of the business, including using his personal vehicle, answering business phone calls and carrying a clipboard.

“We have to be pretty strict about operating businesses on town property,” Owens said. “Businesses have to operate with the permitted and conditional uses. They can’t just operate in rights-of-ways. We wouldn’t allow someone to operate a business in Wynn Plaza or at the park.”

The jet ski operation isn’t the only one that town officials have their sights set on, Owens said.

“We are aware of two other businesses and going to be pursuing actions against them,” he said.

A call to Mangum by a Lumina News reporter was not returned.

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