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Nags Head homeowners banned from repairing their beachfront property for five years because the town declared them a public nuisance are back at work, getting those homes renovated.

The Virginian-Pilot reported a U.S. District Court judge ruled last week for the homeowners on part of their claims, allowing them to start repairing their houses.

The dispute started with a winter storm in November 2009 that damaged parts of the town.

Nags Head wanted nine houses removed after the storm to protect the public and to maintain use of the beach, Town Manager Cliff Ogburn said. The homes take up most of the beach and block passage of rescue vehicles, he said.

"You can't walk north and south because of these houses," Ogburn said.

The town sent notices to homeowners saying the damaged houses sat on public trust property and would have to be removed or razed. Also, the town wouldn't issue building permits for repairs.

U.S. District Court Judge James Dever ruled the town is responsible for the homes becoming nuisances.

"But even assuming the damage from the November storm caused the cottages to become nuisances, no evidence suggests the cottages would have continued to be nuisances had the town allowed the owners to repair them, as North Carolina law obligated the town to do," Dever wrote in his decision, dated Nov. 6.

The decision involves a lawsuit brought by Roc Sansotta, owner of Cove Realty. He manages the nine cottages for the owners and has a partial ownership in five of them, the decision says.

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