Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sarasota County Turns a Cheek from Protecting Access

We are sad to report that the Commission meeting last night was a complete let down. Commissioners voted unanimously not to proceed with regulations to ban signs and beach obstructions within 25 feet of the mean high water line.For a County that was first going to pursue legislation and now is backing down from both legislation and a local ordinance, its a sad day for the public.

Sarasota County balks on beach access law

Owners' signs and obstructions will not be banned

SARASOTA COUNTY - Siesta Key's powdery white beaches have seemed more like quicksand lately for county commissioners, sucking them into a heated debate over public access that culminated Wednesday in a decision to back off new regulations.

Instead, Sarasota County will continue to address beach access issues case by case.

The new rules were proposed after a series of high-profile clashes between beachgoers and property owners on Siesta Key. Commissioners felt the public was being improperly barred from certain areas.

But many beachfront property owners opposed the solution advanced by county officials.

About 50 people attended Wednesday's meeting, with more than a dozen speaking against the new rules.

Confrontations between Siesta Key property owners and beachgoers have become more common in the last three years, starting with the posting of No Trespassing signs on Shell Beach.

Sheriff's deputies frequently have been called in disputes at Point of Rocks, where a homeowner went so far as to stretch "crime scene" tape across the beach.

Click Here to read more.

Related Links:
Backtracking on beach access

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Surfrider Foundation Takes to the US Supreme Court

Mike Sturdivant (Emerald Coast Chapter), Steve Combs (Atlanta Chapter) and Julie Lawson (DC Chapter) were just some of the Surfrider Foundation members at the US Supreme Court Dec 2. They were able to hear the entire oral argument and speak with some of the lawyers and government representatives. A summary of the case can be found on Surfrider's Legal blog.

A decision is expected in June.

Write-ups of the hearing can be found at:

New York Times
Wall Street Journal
Washington Post
Orlando Sentinel
Miami Herald

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Updates on the Dec 2nd Supreme Court Case

Landowners on Florida beaches fighting to be sand owners, too
Supreme Court to examine 'taking' of private property
By Robert Barnes Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, November 24, 2009

, FLA. -- The sugar-white sand that stretches from Slade and Nancy Lindsay's deck to the clear, green waters of the Gulf of Mexico is some of the finest in the world. Tiny, uniformly shaped quartz crystals make the beach that stretches along the Florida Panhandle unique, experts say. So what could be wrong with creating more of it?

That is what Florida's beach restoration and renourishment program has been doing statewide for years, pumping in wide new strips of sand to save eroding shorelines.

But the Lindsays and other homeowners challenged the program because it comes with a catch: The new strips of beach belong to the public, not the property owners. They feared their waterfront view of bleached sand and sea oats would include throngs of strangers toting umbrellas and coolers…Read More

Current List of Court Documents

Merits Briefs
Brief for Petitioners (property owners)
Brief for Respondents, Florida Department of Environmental Protection & Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund
Brief for Respondents Walton County and City of Destin
Property owners' reply brief (to be posted when filed)

Amicus Briefs (supporting property owners)
Owners' Counsel of America
Cato Institute and Pacific Legal Foundation
Citizens for Constitutional Property Rights Legal Foundation, Inc.
American Civil Rights Union
New Jersey Land Title Association
Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund
Oregonians in Action Legal Center
Save Our Beaches and the Southwestern Legal Foundation
New England Legal Foundation
Save Our Shoreline
Coalition for Property Rights, Inc.
The Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence
National Association of Home Builders and the Florida Home Builders Association

Amicus Briefs (supporting the government)
Amicus brief of Brevard County, Florida
Amicus brief of the United States
Amicus brief of the American Planning Association
Amicus brief of the National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors, International City/County Management Association, and International Municipal Lawyers Association
Amicus brief of Coastal States Organization
Amicus brief of The Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association
Amicus brief of the Surfrider Foundation
Amicus brief of 26 States

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sarasota County Pursues Beach Access Ordinance Dec 9th

"No Trespassing" signs and other attempts to discourage the public from crossing or laying out on a particular stretch of sand would be more heavily regulated under a new law that goes before the public.

While signs and barricades apparently aimed at turning the public away from certain sections of the beach have been a sporadic problem on Siesta Key, county commissioners are considering the law because of fears the practice will spread.
Because beachfront property owners often own the sand seaward of the vegetation line, this proposal is stirring opposition from some who do not like the county banning signs on private property. The proposed law would ban signs, barricades and other impediments seaward of either the vegetation line or of any shore protection structure like a rock revetment. Property owners would still be able to put "No Trespassing" signs up, but they would have to be on top of a sea wall or landward of the vegetation line.

The proposal is scheduled for a public hearing before county commissioners on Dec. 9.

Click here to read the proposed Ordinance

Click here to read more County FAQs.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Surfrider Foundation Voices Beach Access Arguments to the United States Supreme Court

Washington, DC (October 5, 2009) - Surfrider Foundation petitioned the United States Supreme Court today to uphold beach access and public trust law in the state of Florida. Surfrider Foundation entered an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection v. Stop the Beach Renourishment case that is currently pending before the High Court. The case will determine the constitutionality of Florida’s beach management program with regards to the judicial takings doctrine, and fundamentally will decide when the beach belongs to the public or whether it is private land after beach renourishment has occurred.

The Supreme Court Petitioner in this case is asking the High Court to endorse the judicial takings doctrine to prevent the public from using the beach in front of the private property owner’s homes once the sandy beach has been “renourished.” This would contradict nearly 100 years of Supreme Court law on the issue and would also directly contradict the Florida Supreme Court, which interpreted the state’s common law that public beach access should be protected in the best interest of citizens in the state.

Surfrider Foundation’s brief, written by an expert team of pro bono attorneys at McDermott Will & Emery LLP, argues that the state’s current regime properly allocates the beach access rights to the public after any beach management efforts have occurred. Specifically, the brief argues that the Florida beach access provisions of the beach management program are constitutional on their face, that the private property owner’s private rights are not affected by the Florida law, and that the Judicial Takings Doctrine of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment are not applicable in this case. Furthermore, the Florida law at issue provides reasonable and appropriate measures to enable the State of Florida to discharge its obligations to the citizens of Florida as trustee, under Article X of the Florida Constitution, of the public’s rights of access to the State’s lands to navigable waters.

“This amicus brief effort will undoubtedly continue to bolster the Surfrider Foundation’s comprehensive fight to defend beach access rights and will complement our legislation and litigation beach access efforts in Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Hawaii, and elsewhere around the nation,” says Angela Howe, Surfrider Foundation’s Legal Manager.

“While our organization does not endorse the practice of dredge and fill projects, the outcome of this case to the beach management program in Florida could cause further complication and/or loss of lateral beach access for the public,” says Ericka D’Avanzo, Surfrider Foundation’s Florida Regional Manager.

Click here to read the Brief

Friday, September 18, 2009

Surfrider Foundation Amicus Brief for Beach Access

The City of Destin and Walton County, Florida, filed an application for a beach restoration project under this law. This application was challenged by two property owner groups (Save Our Beaches, Inc. and Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc.) who argued that the beach erosion control law effects a taking of property without compensation. The property owners prevailed in their challenge before the Court of Appeal and the Florida Supreme Court granted review. In late 2008, the Florida Supreme Court overturned the decision and ruled against the property owners. The owners appealed to the U.S. Surpeme Court, and PLF supported the petitioner as amicus curiae in the High Court.

Questions presented to the US Supreme Court:
The Florida Supreme Court invoked “nonexistent rules of state substantive law" to reverse 100 years of uniform holdings that littoral rights are constitutionally
protected. In doing so, did the Florida Court's decision cause a ''judicial taking" proscribed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution?

Is the Florida Supreme Court's approval of a legislative scheme that eliminates constitutional littoral rights and replaces them with statutory rights a violation of the
due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution?

Is the Florida Supreme Court's approval of a legislative scheme that allows an executive agency to unilaterally modify a private landowner's property boundary without a judicial hearing or the payment of just compensation a violation of the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution?

The Emerald Coast Chapter and SF HQ are in the process of filing a Legal Brief with the US Supreme Court....more to come shortly...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Best FL Example of a County Code of Ordinances

All Counties should adopt this ordinance like Volusia County did..

Sec. 20-82. General policy.
The intent of section 205.1 of the Charter is to determine as a legislative fact binding on county government that since time immemorial the public has enjoyed access to the beach and has made recreational use of the beach; that such use has been ancient, reasonable, without interruption, and free from dispute; and that, because of this customary access and use, the public has the right of access to the beach and a right to use the beach for recreation and other customary purposes. The intent of section 205.1 of the Charter is to mandate that county government define, protect and enforce the public's customary rights of beach access and use. It is not the intent of the Charter or of this chapter to affect in any way the title of the owner of land adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, or to impair the right of any such owner to contest the existence of the customary right of the public to access and use any particular area of privately owned beach, or to reduce or limit any rights of public access or use that may exist or arise other than as customary rights. It is therefore declared and affirmed to be the public policy of this county that the public, individually and collectively, subject to the provisions of this chapter, shall have the right of personal ingress and egress to and from the beach and the right to make recreational and other customary uses of the beach. The county legal department shall be authorized to take all steps legally necessary to protect and defend the public right of access and use declared by the Charter and this chapter.
(Ord. No. 87-36, § 3.01, 11-16-87)