Walton County has been given until May 6 to verify that it has notified all beach property owners of its intention to seek a declaration of customary use.
Judge David Green issued an order April 25 granting the county’s request to delay by two weeks a previous ruling that he be shown proof that all property owners affected by the county’s legal action had been properly notified.
The order granting the extension puts the number of private parcels that must be notified at 1,194. Walton County officials have not stated definitively how many property owners have not received proper notification, and estimates of the number range from a hand full to well over 200.
In September of 2018 a public hearing to discuss the county’s proposal to seek a customary use declaration and establish a customary use ordinance had to be postponed when it was learned some owners had not received notification of the county’s intent.
Noyes said at that time 4,198 total letters had been sent out and “less than half of 1 percent of the total number of beachfront property owners” had not been reached.
A customary use declaration would state that all of Walton County’s beaches are public by virtue of them having been used for recreation and other purposes for as long as mankind has had access to them. Beach property owners are fighting the declaration as a violation of their private property rights.
The emergency motion to delay providing documentation to Green was entered into court records April 22, which was the day the proof of notification was to be turned in. The motion stated Noyes’ offices had been evacuated April 15 after extensive mold and termite damage was found there.
“Due to the closure of the County Attorney’s Office and the relocation of her staff, mail delivery to the County Attorney’s Office was stopped on Tuesday, April 16,” the motion said. “The disruption to, and relocation of, the County Attorney’s Office have prevented the County Attorney’s Office from completing its task of providing verification to the Court.”
Along with the extension provided to the county, Green also extended the time for parties to file pleadings or motions in the law suit brought by the county until June 20.