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)

Florida Bar Journal Article on Beach Access

Check out the recent COVER of the Florida Bar Journal and its discussion on Beach Access: Click Here to Read the Article.

Beach Bill died in Senate in April

The bill did die early on in March after not making it to the next Senate Committee agenda.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Can We Get this Bill to the Next Committee?

This proposal may die if it doesn’t advance to the next Committee.

Email or call these Florida Senators to ask that the bill be placed on the Community Affairs Committee agenda.

You can copy the below text into an email if you want, or call and say:

“Dear Representatives,

Please place SB 488 on the Community Affairs Committee agenda, and support approval of the bill.

Existing Florida law regarding public beach access is confusing and dispersed in various regulations, making it difficult to enforce violations by private property owners or municipalities that impede public beach access. This bill would simplify and consolidate the law regarding public beach access. Doing so will be of value to Florida residents and visitors to our state.”

Emailing would better. You can email all of the Committee members at once if you like.

Committee email addresses (copy into your email’s “to”),,,,,,,,,

If you truly want to protect public beach access, YOU need to just do this. There are private property owners and towns that don’t want this bill passed, and their lobbyists will make an argument against approval.

OUR VOICES need to be heard. If we don’t speak up, nobody will hear us.

Sen. Michael Bennett (Chair), Bradenton (850) 487-5078

Sen. Gary Siplin (Vice-Chair), Orlando (850) 487-5190

Sen. Thad Altman, Melbourne (850) 487-5053

Sen. Ted Deutch, Delray Beach (850) 487-5091

Sen. Rudy Garcia, Hialeah (850) 487-5106

Sen. Andy Gardiner, Orlando (850) 487-5047

Sen. Anthony C. Hill, Jacksonville (850) 487-5024

Sen. Jeremy Ring, Margate (850) 487-5094

Sen. Ronda Storms, Brandon (850) 487-5072

Sen. Stephen R. Wise, Jacksonville (850) 487-5027

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Senate Bill Passes First Committee

On tuesday March 31st the bill BARELY made it through its first committee. We are very concerned and dont understand how there is opposition to the bill on the grounds that there is "no need for language." Next committee is Community Affairs, however due to time constraints we are not sure if we will make it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Beach Access Bill Will Finally Be Heard in Senate

We just received word that we should be on the agenda for Tuesday, March 31st in the Senate Environmental Preservation Committee, Senate Bldg Room 401. Theses members include:

Senator Constantine (Central Fl) 850-487-5050
Senator Sobel (Broward) 850-487-5097
Senator Rich (Broward/Dade) 850-487-5103
Senator Jones (Pinellas) 850-487-5065
Senator Dockery (Central Fl) 850-487-5040
Senator Detert (Southwest Fl) 850-487-5081

What to Say when you Call your state representatives by phone (This is easy. Do it right now!)

Call one of the phone numbers listed above and tell the person who answers: “Hi. My name is __. I’m calling to ask the Senator's support for Senate Bill 488 and House Bill 527 regarding Public Beach Access.” (if you have ever had an issue with beach access being blocked you should share this as well)

That’s it!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bill Pass First House Committee

On Tuesday morning the bill was heard in the Natural Resources Council. Chapter activists from Central Florida, Suncoast, and Panhandle areas, as well as Professor Donna Christie were present to show support for the bill. Rep. Sachs did an amazing job explaining the bill to the committee and it passed with great support. We would like to highlight major support from Rep. Mayfield and Shultz!!! Next Committee is Civil Justice. No word on Senate yet....

The day didnt end there thought. Members worked the halls of the Capitol to gain further support for the upcoming committee. They were well rewarded at the end of the day with the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition Leadership Reception where we gave Senator Pruitt of the Treasure Coast and Rep. Saunders of South Florida awards for their ongoing efforts to protect our coastal and ocean environments.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Senate Blocks Bill First Committee

On Thursday we received word that our bill will not go to its first Senate Committee meeting on Tuesday, March 24th.

It remains crucial for members that can come to Tallahassee tomorrow to be at the 8am House Natural Resources Council committee meeting at Reed Hall.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March 24th Trip to Tallahassee & Oceans Day Info

For Surfrider members that would like to travel to Tallahassee to attend committee meetings and meet with Legislators here is some helpful information:

1. Click here for the most recent version of our proposed bill that will be presented during the committees

2. Click here to print out bullet points sheet to share with legislators

3. Time/Location of Committee Meetings on Tuesday (Click Here for parking map)
  • 9 am-noon House Building, Reed Hall, Agriculture & Natural Resources Council
4. Florida Ocean & Coastal Coalition Reception
5. Place to Stay Overnight -La Quinta Inn & Suites $55/night

Press Release: Counties & Cities Oppose Beach Access

Tallahassee, Fl (March 13, 2009) – In a state such as Florida that depends so heavily on its beach tourism as an economic engine, the issue of adequate public beach access should be a priority. Surfrider Foundation's eleven Florida chapters are pursuing protection of existing public beach access in the Florida Legislature via House Bill 527 and Senate Bill 488.

The 41 million tourists visiting Florida have the opportunity to experience a multitude of diverse attractions; but Florida's beaches remain one of the most popular attractions. Can you imagine the shock and surprise that unsuspecting visitors and Florida's own residents feel when they travel to the beach with their families only to be threatened with arrests unless they get off of the beach? Imagine the frustration when your neighborhood beach access is closed for over a year to accommodate a hotel or construction. Arrest threats on the beach are on the rise and there has been a sharp decline in the number of beach access points across the state. These issues will persist without clarification of beach access laws.

Sadly, after months of back-bending efforts and good faith negotiating, the Florida Association of Counties and the Florida League of Cities continue to block proposed legislation from being heard by the Florida Legislature.
"Who would have thought that Florida Statute Chapter 161, which deals with much of our regulation of beach management and general coastal protection wouldn't have specific language on beach access," said Larry Hart, former First Coast Surfrider Chapter Chair. "Unfortunately it only contains little pieces of language spread throughout the chapter that are completely ambiguous. It does not actually state protective measures that DEP can go to for guidance or enforcement."

Financial support for Florida's beach management program depends on beach access. The state's matching share of funds to local government projects is proportionate to the number and quality of beach access points. Therefore, the decline in beach access could impact funding for future beach projects. That funding has already been reduced from $30 million to $5 million. In these cash strapped times, local governments should be doing everything they can to protect their best revenue producers, and our beaches rank among our state's greatest economic assets. Apparently, the Florida Association of Counties and the Florida League of Cities do not understand the connection between public beach access, healthy beaches and a healthy economy.

"The only entities responsible for our loss of beach access in this state are our local governments, no one else has this power," said Ericka D'Avanzo, Florida Regional Manager of the Surfrider Foundation. "They cannot have their cake and eat it too."

Surfrider Foundation have built a website to show the related statewide articles, pictures and videos that show these issues first hand and the need for the bill. This bill would allow Florida to join the ranks of Texas, California, and Oregon with adequate beach access protection policy.

Call your County Commission, City Council and Legislators TODAY to get them to support this bill!!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Another Engelwood Beach (in Charlotte Co) property has put up ropes and posts while we still are waiting for meaningful on the ground results in any enforcement action from DEP pending for more than 1 year on adjoining and nearby similar violations.


The property in question is at physical address: 1180 Shore View Dr. EnglewoodFL 34223, the property owner's name and mailing address from the Charlotte County land records show THEY ARENT EVEN FLORIDA RESIDENTS!

Monday, March 9, 2009

2nd Week of Session

Reporting Update:

The end of last week we meet with Rep. Trudi Williams to try to get onto her committee agenda in the House Natural Resources Council. We have been working diligently with the Council staff to make sure their legislative analysis is positive.

We are hopefully to make it to both Senate and House committees March 17th. If anyone is available to come to Tallahassee to speak in favor of this bill please contact the FL Regional Manager at

We still need everyone to continue to contact their legislators!!!

Dont forget Oceans Day is March 25th, this is another great opportunity to come to Tallahassee to meet with your legisators and show support for the Beach Access Bill.

First Week of Session March 2

Reporting Update

With the first week of session we have received a "neutral" anaylsis from DEP regarding our bill. Unfortunately we did not make it to the committee calendars.

We need everyone to continue to contact their legislators!!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Unauthorized Structures in Englewood Beach

Multiple incidents have occured involving resident beachgoers and a tourist who was sitting in front of one of the subject property in the wet sand. The upland property owner has on repeated occasions called the sheriff. The deputies told the tourist that she was not trespassing but suggested that she might want to move from in front of the subject property to avoid being glared at from the beach houses. As the tourist prepared to move she tripped over one of the ropes and fell.

There are now more ropes, more bollards, more signs, extending further towards the waterline than before.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New Illegal Signage in Panama City

Beachfront resorts are continuing to put up signage to stop the public from walking the beach with false statues.

Video of issue in Naples, Fl

Check out how hotels are impeding access:

Ritz-Carlton private beach public beach Naples Florida Ritz Carlton Hotel ECL

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Our 2009 Beach Access Bill is FILED!

Our Beach Access Bill is on it's way! Our House & Senate sponsors are Senator Justice of Sarasota and Rep. Sachs of Delray.

The bill number is S488 and the language can be found on the Senate website. We will be keeping our eyes open for bad bills and others that we might be able to support.

Dont forget to submit your local photos and newspaper articles for this blog to build our database of known access issues across the state.

We Need Your Help!
Please let us know if you would like to meet with your legislator to discuss this bill. Click here to send an email.

Mark your calendars: March 25th for Florida Ocean's Day in Tallahasee. More info to follow later.