On September 8, 2018, Walton County officials held an important public meeting about the issue of customary use and how a new state law – and the county’s subsequent action – could affect the due process and private property rights of hundreds of beachfront property owners. However, the county failed to properly notify all affected property owners. Therefore, the attorney hired by the county to handle customary use actions advised commissioners the action planned for the meeting would have to be delayed.
This meeting was supposed to be the first step in the county’s pursuit of legal action against beachfront property owners related to customary use in accordance with the new state law.
The meeting drew hundreds of attendees, including a number of property owners who stepped forward to voice their reasonable concerns about potential legal action. The property owners mentioned they were not against reasonable, respectful use of their beach. These speakers appreciated that the county was following the process recently enacted by the Florida legislature. They went on to describe a series of increasingly common occurrences, including visitors leaving their trash, making noise late into the night and even relieving themselves on the dunes. No one would consider those actions reasonable if they happened in your own backyard, yet beachfront property owners have been expected to endure these nuisances. They also noted that there are miles of beautiful public beaches in Walton County that are separate from the private property owned by many residents and Walton County is home to many public beaches.
A follow-up meeting will likely be scheduled by county officials in early November to begin the next step in this process, which makes it important for property owners to be fully aware of their rights. We encourage you to join the scores of other beachfront property owners who have already talked with an attorney to learn more about their property rights options.