Customary Use and Our 30A Legacy

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by Reggie Gaskins, Apr 25, 2019.

  1. BlueMtnBeachVagrant

    BlueMtnBeachVagrant Beach Fanatic

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    So a rabbi, preacher and atheist were in a bar having beers and discussing the meaning of activism........
     
  2. BlueMtnBeachVagrant

    BlueMtnBeachVagrant Beach Fanatic

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    Let’s pretend.
    Imagine 2 IDENTICAL beach front homes that are for sale.

    One home sold the beach to the county for public use. And as such, lots of tourists pile in and take over leaving little to no room for the homeowner or guests.

    The other home maintained control of the beach they owned and could always enjoy the use of their property without having to compete for space, tolerate occasional disrespecting tourists, and so on.

    Now if one was in the market to buy a beach front home, it is likely (massive understatement) that more would be paid for the home that had the private beach.

    And one’s property tax is simply based on the valuation of one’s property, period. So the home with private beach would be paying more. If my understanding is incorrect in this regard, PLEASE enlighten me.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
  3. L.C. Bane

    L.C. Bane Beach Fanatic

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    ...meanwhile...a Hindu and a Buddhist were sitting on a beach reflecting on dharma....
     
  4. BlueMtnBeachVagrant

    BlueMtnBeachVagrant Beach Fanatic

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    If it was a public beach, they probably couldn’t hear themselves reflecting.
     
  5. Dawn

    Dawn Beach Fanatic

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    Having a front row seat to unguarded humanity may not be a pretty thing but I bet it is pretty interesting. Maybe instead of seeing it as an intrusion, try seeing it as an opportunity for enlightenment.
     
  6. Hotzn

    Hotzn Beach Comber

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    I totally agree with ShallowsNoles post. I don't think any part of the beach should be private but I also side with the BFOs not wanting to give up their property to the county. I own off the beach and the majority of the time use the beaches at the larger public access points. We occasionally go to the smaller access points and will set up a couple of chairs and umbrella in front of private homes next to the access.
    We spend the day enjoying the beautiful gulf and beach and are respectful of the BFOs space. No loud music, no trash, no large groups with canopies side by side that make the beach look like tent city. We pick up other people's trash on both public and private land and always leave the area better than we found it. I don't think MOST BFOs have a problem with this. Although I'm sure there are a few.
    One BFO who I was told is big horses ass ( no, it's not the guy with plastic chains all the way down to the water) was standing on his balcony one day when we were sitting just to the side of his beach. As I was walking to the trash to throw some garbage away I saw a water bottle directly in front of his house near the dunes. I walked over and picked it up and he gave me a pleasant wave. We later played some paddle ball on his beach to avoid bothering others that were sitting near us. Not a word from the owner. We were being respectful. I think that's all they want.
    We all bought property, moved, plan to move and vacation in this area for a reason. It's a great place and great community. I don't know what the solution is but we need to all work together, get along and keep it that way. Maybe it's just that simple. Wouldn't that be nice?
     
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  7. Reggie Gaskins

    Reggie Gaskins Beach Lover

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    And there it is. THAT! THAT is the legacy of 30A.
     
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  8. FloridaBeachBum

    FloridaBeachBum Beach Fanatic

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    Thanks Hotzn for the sentiment. Most have point fingers at beachfront owners and repeat over and over that this is a recent problem caused by beachfront owners privatizing already private property? Unfortunately past (as far back as 2007) and present Walton Commissioners only had the political will to litigate an ancient English common law doctrine of custom against 1,200 private property beachfront parcels and 4,600 beachfront owners making owners of at least 650+ parcels (2,300+? owners) angry. Fanned by CU activists who’s strategy is to repeat over and over again uneducated untruths, malicious innuendo and incite the majority to raise up because they just believe they are just and beachfront owners are unjust, not based on the rule of law, but because they want what they want regardless of the law. The Ends seem to Justify the Means. Custom is a legal doctrine. Not a political or economic doctrine and should be decided strictly on the law. Not what a majority believe or a partisan poll.

    Beach use is an economic supply and demand problem and failed growth management problem of the elected (political) Walton Commissioner’s own making looking for a quick (relative to a political solution) legal solution in a adversarial (by design) legal system that have already cost tax payers and property owners (who are a large % of the tax payer revenue) more than a million dollars to date, and won’t likely end for many many years and multi-millions of tax payers dollars. I wonder how much infrastructure Commissioners could buy with the money litigating customary use of private property? Commissioners get more votes supporting CU than supporting property rights or promising more roads and sewer systems.

    So far not one CU advocate has disputed any verifiable property right facts on this thread with 418 posts but have offered, I just "believe" CU is so and so does the majority, lots of shout downs, and name calling. Unfortunately the point of; can’t we all just get along, has past. Thanks to present inept Walton Commissioners, County Administrator, CU advocates, and REALTORS who want what they want regardless of the costs in time, money, or ill will. I will never list my beachfront property with a Walton REALTOR whose CEO and President advocate for CU of private property (unless that REALTOR disavows CU like some have), regardless of the legal outcome.

    Most beachfront owners have and will share with respectful property users. There are about 13 miles (67,704 feet) out of 26 miles of public beachfront, seaward of west Walton beaches Erosion Control Line parcels, 3 beachfront State parks (which are not free to public access, unlike private beachfront owners who pay taxes for the public to their own property?), and Walton tax payer owned beachfront. There is 26 miles of foreshore for public use. Is that not enough for your public use?

    The Mean High Water Line-in-the-sand has been drawn and I for one am not willing to settle for anything less than recognition and respect of our deeded property and all littoral property rights we pay taxes for the privilege to use for our exclusive enjoyment if we so choose. Property rights all Walton property owners have had since 1776 and have today; unless a judge rules otherwise FIRST. We have shared our beachfront for decades, with few exceptions, but I’m not inclined to with many others any more given the litigation and anti-social media vitriol. Although I disagree with “ I don't think any part of the beach should be private”. Would like to know on what legal basis? Thanks for your civil discourse, recognition and respectful use of beachfront owner's property.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2019
  9. Hotzn

    Hotzn Beach Comber

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    I can understand why you disagree. Maybe I'd feel the same way if I was fortunate enough to own beach front property. I'd like to think if I did, that I wouldn't be the grumpy "get off my lawn" guy.
    I'd be ok with good, respectful people enjoying the beach on the property that I paid for and pay taxes on. I wouldn't be ok with vendors setting up shop, gangs of noisy unruly spring/summer breakers and people that bring everything but the kitchen sink to the beach and leave trash behind.
    I get the impression that most BFOs feel this way.
     
  10. Reggie Gaskins

    Reggie Gaskins Beach Lover

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    Hotzn, You are describing a 30A beach environment that represents our true 30A Legacy. So, would you agree that

    A) There are still plenty of private and public beaches in South Walton that one might visit to quietly and politely enjoy a thoroughly conflict free beach experience.

    Or

    B) Beach Property Owners have all put up signs and chains and have completely kept all of the public off of the vast majority of South Walton Beaches?
     
  11. Duchess

    Duchess Beach Lover

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    Mike Huckabee's epic fight to keep beachgoers off his patch of Florida sand

    Not long after his failed 2008 presidential bid, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee bought a beachfront plot in the Florida Panhandle and built a three-story, 10,000-square-foot mansion, with six bedrooms, seven-and-a-half bathrooms, and a pool. By planting his flag in the Florida sugar sand, Huckabee was escaping Arkansas income taxes and joining other rich Republicans who owned houses in this particular part of Walton County, including Karl Rove. The beach house was a sign that he’d made it. As he explained in an email to a state senator years later, “Having grown up dirt poor in Arkansas, I never thought I’d see saltwater in person, much less live on a beach.”

    There was just one problem: Huckabee built his dream house on a public beach, a spot where some of the more than 4 million spring breakers and tourists who come to Walton County each year had been parking their lawn chairs and fishing poles since time immemorial. That meant the Fox News contributor had to share much of the 115-foot-long spit of sand in front of his $6 million house with those who helped pay for it—the people who watch his TV show. And he didn’t like it one bit.

    So Huckabee, father of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, lobbied local officials to cleanse it of the riffraff. Now, along with his rich neighbors, he’s taken the matter to court. In doing so, he and the other wealthy beachfront property owners have set off an epic legal battle, one that has Florida cops booting unsuspecting tourists off the beaches just as summer vacation season sets in.

    [​IMG]
    Mike Huckabee’s beach house (right) and some of the sand he claims belongs only to him.

    Stephanie Mencimer / Mother Jones

    The issue has become so toxic that the state’s Republican governor skipped out on some public appearances to avoid protesters last year. Beach access activists say the legal fight has larger implications, not just for Florida but across the country, as wealthy, powerful people try to annex public beachfronts for their private benefit. “This is just the beginning,” says Santa Rosa Beach attorney Daniel Uhlfelder, one of the activists leading the fight against beach privatization. “If they’re able to pull this off, they’re going to take this to other coastlines around the country.”

    In 2012, Huckabee hired a lawyer and asked a judge to grant him ownership of the land stretching from the dune at the foot of his house down to the mean high-water line—essentially the wet sand and the Gulf of Mexico itself. No one appears to have protested the request, and the judge agreed, giving Huckabee the public beach for a mere $400. Nearly two dozen of his neighbors have also quietly annexed the beach while escaping any additional taxes. The result is a checkerboard of public and private space along the water’s edge for miles of Walton beachfront. Huckabee’s beach is private, but his next-door neighbor’s isn’t.

    In 2016, the rash of homeowners attempting to privatize their beaches prompted Walton County to pass an ordinance declaring all 26 miles of beach in the county open for public use, although many remained privately owned. The county was on solid ground here: The Florida Supreme Court had declared the public’s right to enjoy the dry sand of private beaches back in 1974.
    “No part of Florida is more exclusively hers, nor more properly utilized by her people than her beaches,” the court wrote with poetic flair, adding, “There is probably no custom more universal, more natural or more ancient, on the sea-coasts, not only of the United States, but of the world, than that of bathing in the salt waters of the ocean and the enjoyment of the wholesome recreation incident thereto.”

    For all Huckabee’s distaste for the public, Walton County wouldn’t have much in the way of beaches if not for the massive contribution of taxpayers. Climate change–induced sea-level rise is eroding the sand, and the stretch of beach in front of Huckabee’s house had been hit by seven hurricanes in the six years before he bought the plot. The county has spent millions of dollars trucking in sand to renourish its beaches and preserve its primary industry: tourism. But that hasn’t deterred rich property owners from suing the county, claiming that it illegally seized their property when it passed the public use ordinance.

    They had help from the Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian public interest law firm funded over the years by Exxon Mobil, the tobacco industry, the Koch brothers, and a host of right-wing foundations. (PLF had joined a similar fight in California, when a tech billionaire fought all the way to the Supreme Court to restrict public access to the beach in front of his house, ultimately losing.) In late 2017, a federal court ruled in Walton County’s favor.

    So Huckabee turned to politics, lobbying the state legislature, whose members were more pliable than federal judges. Huckabee and Blue Diamond Horizons, a company registered to Huckabee that has no website or public presence, each donated $1,000 to a commission candidate who had privately offered to oppose public use of the beach. After the candidate won, he came out in support of public beach access.

    With the help of a high-powered lobbyist, beachfront property owners persuaded Rep. Katie Edwards-Walpole, a Democrat from South Florida, to cosponsor a measure that gutted the ability of local governments to pass ordinances granting public access to privately owned beaches. Two other counties that already had these ordinances were grandfathered in the law, leaving Walton County as the only place where the bill would invalidate an existing ordinance. When the law went into effect on July 1, 2018, Walton County homeowners quickly put up “no trespassing” signs on their beaches, hiring armed security and installing ropes to cordon off their little pieces of paradise.

    Huckabee wrote a thank-you note to the Republican co-sponsor of the bill, complaining that he and his neighbors were “demonized as ‘greedy, selfish and rich’ owners who want to deprive the poor of their ‘rights.’” He added, “I’ve found used condoms on my walk-down, glass bottles broken, dog feces, litter. Sharp tent poles that can cut bare feet and worse. Large tents with large groups with boom boxes make using my own property very difficult during high season.” (Huckabee did not respond to requests to comment for this story.)

    The bill didn’t just ruin the vacations of tourists who rented houses near the beach only to encounter security guards who chased them off. It also prevented Huckabee’s neighbors who own the modest cottages behind his mansion from using the beach just steps from their front doors. “All those thousands of people who’ve invested in homes that are close to the beach, are they going to be allowed to go to the beach as they have for years?” says Dave Rauschkolb, who owns a restaurant in Seaside, a wealthy Walton County beach town a few miles from Huckabee’s house, and has been fighting the beach privatization. “Probably not.”

    The involvement of a South Florida Democrat in wiping out public beach access in the Panhandle, an area that Donald Trump won by 40 points in the 2016 presidential election, surprised locals. But emails obtained by activists showed that Edwards-Walpole had met with lawyers from the Pacific Legal Foundation in 2017 about public use of the beach—an issue that wasn’t relevant to her district. Edwards-Walpole also conceded that she had consulted on the bill with the area’s Congress member, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), with whom she’d worked on medical marijuana bills when he was in the state legislature. (Edwards-Walpole did not respond to a request for comment.)

    Gaetz’s family owns several homes in Walton County, including one in Seaside that was used in the filming of The Truman Show as the home of Jim Carrey’s title character. Many of the property owners seeking to privatize their beaches, including Huckabee, are big donors to Gaetz’s campaigns, and Gaetz’s family is close friends with Huckabee. A week after Edwards-Walpole’s bill took effect, Huckabee hosted a fundraiser for Gaetz’s reelection campaign at his beach house.

    [​IMG]
    The Seaside house owned by the parents of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) that was used in Jim Carrey’s The Truman Show

    Stephanie Mencimer / Mother Jones

    Gaetz has denied any role in the passage of HR 631. “The rumors of my omnipresent influence are vastly overstated,” he told Mother Jones. “While I’m here in Congress working with the president and leading on a number of these critical oversight issues, do you think I was really back in Florida politicking with a South Florida Democrat over these beach issues? It strains credulity.”

    There’s good reason that Gaetz might want to distance himself from the law, which is so unpopular that 11 days after the bill took effect, Republican Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order trying to block its enforcement. There are only 900 or so beachfront property owners, many of whom are not full-time county residents, and more than 14,000 Walton County residents have signed affidavits supporting public beach use. A poll in September 2018 showed that Florida residents of both parties, particularly those in the Panhandle, overwhelmingly opposed allowing homeowners to ban the public from using the dry sand adjacent to their homes.

    I asked Gaetz where he stands on the issue roiling his district. “I support a compromise where people can use the beach, where property owners don’t have to have someone setting up a campsite in their yard,” he said. “I think that needle can be threaded. I’m glad that I’m a congressman and not a Florida legislator and that there will be others who will deploy their talents to that question.”

    Ultimately, the courts will decide whether Huckabee gets to have his private beach. Huckabee is one of several hundred property owners involved in a lawsuit with the county, which is trying to use the new requirements set out in HB 631 to reestablish public use of the beach. If they win, “this precedent will be set, and coastal American communities are suddenly going to be inundated with security guards, signs and very unhappy people,” says Rauschkolb, the Seaside beach activist.

    Meanwhile, Huckabee may get his comeuppance for trying to seize a piece of nature for himself. His monstrosity of a mansion was never supposed to be built in the first place. Blue Mountain Beach, where his house is located, was slammed by consecutive hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, which left the beach critically eroded. The lot he purchased was supposed to be unbuildable. It sits atop a state line designating where a major storm surge is likely to reach, beyond which development is prohibited without a special permit. Undeterred, according to a Reuters investigation, Huckabee hired a contractor who dumped sand on the beach to create a fake dune and lobbied environmental officials to say that with the imported sand pile, his building site was adequately protected from storms and met the criteria for a waiver from the law.

    If Huckabee’s house doesn’t get flattened by a hurricane first, sea-level prediction maps suggest that it is likely to get flooded regularly over the next 20 years by worsening storm surges. When those disasters inevitably happen, Huckabee will no doubt be asking the very taxpayers he doesn’t want on his beach to help pick up the tab to restore it.

    This story has been updated to clarify Walton County’s renourishment of its beaches.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 24, 2019
  12. Hotzn

    Hotzn Beach Comber

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    I agree with A. Not all BFOs (but some) have put up signs and fences or even hired security staff (which is ridiculous). However, alot of non BFOs and visitors fear that B is the future. Especially those who live or rent near a beach access that only leads to a narrow access with private beach to each side.
    There is alot of fear and uncertainty right now. I admit I'm concerned the worst possible situation (option B) could happen. I don't think it will. I don't think our community is made up of selfish A-holes although there are a few, both on and off the beach.
    There are alot of ideas out there on what is right, what is wrong, who should do what, how to fix it. I have a few of my own but I don't think rules or laws should have to be put in place for people to enjoy a beach. I find it ridiculous that people are fighting about this at all. It really should have never come to this. If we could all just be decent people (our community, visitors, vendors and county officials)... We wouldn't be having this discussion at all.
    Common sense, respect and decency from both sides would go a long way in fixing this issue.
     
  13. Freebeachfan

    Freebeachfan Beach Lover

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    Why can’t we all get along. Protect our resources and help Enjoy our beach..
     
  14. Reggie Gaskins

    Reggie Gaskins Beach Lover

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    Freebeachfan, Hotzn,
    Agreed. And after 420 comments, we find ourselves balanced squarely back at the original content of this post:
    This Customary Use fight, regardless of who wins, Will Destroy Our 30A Legacy!
     
  15. FactorFiction

    FactorFiction Beach Fanatic

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    Hotzn, I bet I've said this a hundred times. Totally agree with you. Unfortunately, we do need actual enforceable rules for the people who don't naturally use "common sense, respect and decency", but that's a pretty small price if it would bring the community together again.
     
  16. BlueMtnBeachVagrant

    BlueMtnBeachVagrant Beach Fanatic

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    So what happened to Dave R’s thread about property managers and others for having to pay BFOs for profiting off the use of other’s private property? Dave takes an obvious tongue in cheek perspective and tries to present it as reality. IMHO this disrespects the intellect level of those the post was trying to influence. Maybe that's why it was removed.
     
  17. BlueMtnBeachVagrant

    BlueMtnBeachVagrant Beach Fanatic

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    Can’t wait to slice and dice this highly slanted and prejudiced article probably written more by Dave Rauschkolb and Daniel Uhlfelder than by the author. But in the meantime, will try to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend and try to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom.
     
  18. FactorFiction

    FactorFiction Beach Fanatic

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  19. Reggie Gaskins

    Reggie Gaskins Beach Lover

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    Yeah, even when Tom McLaughlin of Northwest Florida Daily News claims it has significant errors, that's really saying something!
     
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  20. Jimmy T

    Jimmy T Beach Fanatic

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    Please lay them all out for us.
     

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