Imagine buying the car of your dreams from an acquaintance. You pay their asking price and look forward to the adventures you will have in your new car.
Then imagine that person asking to borrow the car. OK, you think. They can borrow it this once.
Now imagine that person borrowing your new car, for which you paid a premium price, all the time. In fact, they don’t even ask anymore because they have an extra key! Now, the seller is driving the car more than you and having fun spending the money you paid for it.
Seems like a frustrating and ridiculous situation, doesn’t it?
But beachfront property owners in Walton County have come to know all too well how it feels to have their ownership rights used and abused as county officials allow public beachgoers to trespass on real estate they legally purchased.
The county’s claims that they can simply identify a beach and deem it suitable for public use without fair compensation for the actual property owners are two-faced and un-American. These unlawful land grabs completely ignore fundamental property rights, deprive homeowners of privacy, lower the value of their homes and potentially put their homes in harms’ way.
Today, Walton County officials gladly accept tax revenue from these property owners and then turn around and tell the public they are free to use that private property as a public beach. Walton County officials are double dipping on the use of beachfront property at the expense of the people who have invested in their county.
Perhaps the most worrisome aspect of Walton County’s position is that officials have had to resort to using ordinances that cite Old English Common Law applications of customary use doctrine for their defense. This may work on Brighton Beach in England, but it flies in the face of the U.S. Constitution, and has no place in Florida statute. And, as attorney J. David Breemer surmised in a June 2014 New York Times editorial, if the government can evade the Constitution on the coast, no property is safe.
Walton County officials need to do what is right, and constitutional, and respect private property laws, property owners and tax payers and find another solution for their overcrowded public beaches.
The solution cannot be that the public can go set up for the day in someone’s back yard.
Just like the solution in the car situation can’t be to use the car you sold because you know where it is and still have a copy of the key. That’s ridiculous.
G. Brint Ryan,