Village petition to the NCUC to regulate parking and barge

Today, the Village of Bald Head Island filed a petition with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) to regulate the parking and barge operations of Bald Head Island Transportation, Inc. and Bald Head Island Limited, LLC.

Currently, only the ferry and on-Island trams are regulated by the NCUC.  Any proposed changes to ticket and baggage pricing and scheduling for the ferry and trams by the current or any future private owner must be approved by the NCUC.   

As long as parking and barge operations are not regulated by the NCUC, the current and any future private owner would be able to set parking and barge rates at their discretion.    

In 2010, BHI Limited petitioned the NCUC to raise the ticket and baggage prices for the ferry and trams to reflect the added investment of the Deep Point Marina.  During that rate case, the Village, the Bald Head Island Club, and the Bald Head Association intervened[1] and asked the NCUC to assert regulatory control over the parking operations.  Ultimately, the proceeding was resolved by an agreed-upon “stipulation” that imputed $523,000 of parking revenues to the ferry operations and made other concessions concerning going-forward parking rates.  This outcome did not resolve the issue of the NCUC’s regulatory authority over parking but it was reasonable at the time because BHI Limited had many operations, especially real estate, still on the Island.  BHI Limited’s vested interest in the Island’s success would keep parking and barge prices reasonable.  

BHI Limited has recently stated it is seeking to sell to a private entity.  BHI Limited has been our steward for these systems. We cannot depend on or expect the next entity, if not the Village, to fill BHI Limited’s shoes with the same sense of responsibility. The Village’s petition to the NCUC is driven by concern that any future private owner could raise parking and barge rates beyond a level that would be deemed fair in a regulated environment.   

Why is this important to Bald Head Island property owners?  The Deep Point parking lot serves as the only location for property owners to park vehicles to gain access to the ferry.  The barge serves as the only means to move commodities, equipment, and other essential materials (including household goods that cannot be accommodated on the ferry) to serve the property owners and is the lifeline for tradespersons providing essential services to Islanders. As such, BHI parking and barge operations are monopolies serving the public interest and must be regulated by the NCUC to ensure reasonable rates and service levels in the future. 

The process and schedule for making a determination on regulating the parking and barge operations are set by the NCUC.  It is expected to take six months or more.  We will provide more information as we move through this necessary process.      

[1] Intervening allows access to all information shared with the NCUC and the opportunity to participate in the process by raising issues, seeking clarification, filing testimony, etc., all for the purpose of providing the NCUC with all the pertinent information necessary to ensure a ruling that represents the best outcome for their respective organizations.