On December 11, 2018, Walton County filed its long awaited, misguided attempt to erode private property rights in Walton County to the benefit of public use. In the 144 page complaint, Walton County seeks declaratory judgment affirming the existence of recreational customary use on 1,194 privately owned beachfront parcels in Walton County.
On November 3, Walton County Commissioners held another public meeting on the customary use issue. This meeting was necessary because county officials failed to properly notice every property owner prior to the previous public hearing.
Beachfront property owners in Walton County should be on notice: There is a new public hearing on the customary use issue on November 3. Due to an issue with the some property owners not receiving the notice last time, the county was forced to postpone any final decisions or actions and instead simply hear public comments.
In Florida’s U.S. Senate race, it’s open season on almost any topic. The latest political football: beach access.
Democrat Bill Nelson touches upon the issue in “Salty,” a new animated digital ad criticizing Republican opponent Rick Scott for signing a controversial beach access bill.
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.
The legal doctrine surrounding customary use in Florida can, at times, be complex. That’s why clarity was needed under Florida law to protect the rights of all Floridians. When a bipartisan majority in the Florida Legislature voted to pass HB 631 earlier this year, they were voting to protect the private property rights and the right to due process for Floridians.
There have been plenty of workshops, classes, forums and educational opportunities in Walton County lately. And it isn’t to prepare for the upcoming school year or for the county’s annual budget.
It’s all conversation about the beach; who owns it and who can use it.
The temperature is rising and it’s not just the hot Florida sun. A new law, that I sponsored during the 2018 Legislative Session and that went into effect on July 1, 2018, aims to introduce a balanced process for resolving the legal issue of whether customary use exists on privately owned beachfront property in Florida. Much to my disappointment, this law has been misunderstood by both proponents and opponents alike, causing temperatures to rise and disputes to ensue.
On June 14, 2018, Kent Safriet with Hopping Green & Sams filed a complaint in the Pensacola Northern District of Florida federal court challenging the constitutionality of the customary use doctrine on behalf of a Walton County beachfront property owner. The complaint asserts that the customary use doctrine violates the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In addition, the complaint asserts that the customary use doctrine is inconsistent with the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.