Customary Use and Our 30A Legacy

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

  1. Reggie Gaskins

    Reggie Gaskins Beach Lover

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    It seems quite irresponsible for someone who claims to be a community “leader” to make such a dishonest statement. There is a very real and legally documented history of tens of thousands of real estate transactions, all of which were carefully considered and researched by people wanting to buy their dream; what was marketed and sold to them, as “Private beach”. It’s disrespectful to group them all as “ridiculous”. They are not to blame. To dismiss them with a lie is hurting your cause. Are you telling the hundreds of thousands of people that looked at “Private” beach that they were seeing things in 1920,30,40,50,60,70,80,90,2000,2010? Houses in your subdivision STILL advertise your “private beach” behind security gates keeping the public out. Walton residents deliberately and properly bought private beach, regardless of how you “feel” about it. The entire community believes we have a problem. We all agree something needs to be done. But turning our beaches into a “free for all” Panama City Beach atmosphere kills the very personality we’ve grown to love. CU will do that. It will bring much more restaurant revenue, heck - restaurants will probably expand in anticipation, but that’s pretty one sided. Lying to the public about quiet titles, privatization, taxes, access, trespassing, is only making it worse. Please allow folks trying to make it better to drive now, this carnival show is hurting the community.
     
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  2. furymom

    furymom Beach Lover

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    Yes. Yes. Yes. Thank you Mr. Gaskins!!
     
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  3. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    Sharing the beach is what we've always done in South Walton Florida. We are a beach community with the most beautiful beaches anywhere. Beaches belong to everyone.

    ‘A beach is unlike any other landscape. It is a dynamic, interconnected environment that invites long walks and long views. Its boundaries are constantly in flux, thanks to the tide, storms and sea level rise.’

    GUEST COLUMN: Sharing ‘your’ beach shouldn’t be too much to ask

    By Keith Spera | Guest Columnist
    Apr 21, 2019 at 8:28 AM

    For 20 years, my wife and I have snuck away to the Emerald Coast at every opportunity. We returned even after I was rescued from a rip current. We mourned when the Red Bar burned down in Grayton Beach.

    In October, we realized a dream by buying a vacation/rental cottage in Inlet Beach.

    And last weekend, we learned that “our” beach is not really ours.

    One of the selling points for our neighborhood on the north side of Highway 30A was its deeded beach access. The sand is a 10-minute walk from our door.

    But at the bottom of the staircase that descends down the dune, a sign designates the beach to the right as private property. It belongs to a two-story condo development that sits 30 yards back from the water line, high up on the dune.

    On the last day of our recent visit, my wife and kids were ordered off this sparsely populated private swath of sand by a condo employee.

    So essentially, our “deeded beach access” allows us to get to the beach, but not necessarily use it.

    We had just read about the ongoing Walton County controversy pitting “customary use” public beach access against claims of private property. Talk about the news hitting home.

    The previous afternoon, thanks to heavy surf and high winds, we had this same stretch of private beach to ourselves. My 11-year-old daughter and I picked up plastic bottle caps and other trash. We’ve always felt a sense of shared responsibility for the beach. A beach is a natural resource; everyone who uses it should also be a caretaker.

    At least until you’re kicked off.

    Gulf-front homeowners not wanting strangers partying on their patios or in their pools is totally understandable. So is expecting beach-goers to not be obnoxious, loud, littering jerks.

    And if a condo complex wants to set up rows of chairs and umbrellas that are reserved for their guests, go for it.

    But to claim an entire beach smacks of self-serving, and ultimately self-defeating, overreach.

    Some Gulf-front homeowners have taken advantage of a legal loophole that allows them to pay a modest fee to annex the beach behind their houses. Because that beach, some of the most beautiful and desirable real estate in North America, can’t be built on, it technically has no assessed value -- and therefore no property tax obligation.

    If a beach is off-limits to the public, it shouldn’t be tax-free. You can’t have it both ways. Invoking the sanctity of private property doesn’t make this arrangement any less unfair.

    Blue Mountain Beach resident and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s “Beach Share” proposal suggests property owners who grant public access to “private” beaches should receive a break on property taxes. That sounds like a starting point for a negotiation, provided the beach annexes are properly taxed.

    But the ultimate resolution needs to be that the beaches of South Walton are open to all.

    Chopping them up into parcels would ruin them. A beach is unlike any other landscape. It is a dynamic, interconnected environment that invites long walks and long views. Its boundaries are constantly in flux, thanks to the tide, storms and sea level rise.

    If sea level rise accelerates and the shoreline eventually ends up somewhere north of Interstate 10, this whole debate over customary use may be moot.

    Meanwhile, will most Florida residents and visitors be forced to scamper like sandpipers along the waterline, seeking patches of dry sand that aren’t privatized?

    Whether from rules or red tide, the detrimental effect of South Walton beaches being largely off-limits is the same. It’s very, very bad for business. We’re already having second thoughts about our investment.

    Gulf-front homeowners gearing up for this summer’s Battle of the Beach should ask themselves this: Why did you buy a beach house in the first place?

    Was it intended as a place to relax and unwind, or as a source of anger and frustration?

    Does it make you happy to constantly be on guard against interlopers? To confront families and ruin their day? To have the sheriff’s department on speed-dial?

    Ultimately, do you want your lovely home to be a source of joy, or of long-term litigation?

    Think about how fortunate you are just to own a beachfront home, to enjoy the stunning panorama, feel the Gulf breezes and listen to the surf.

    Already, you’re way ahead of 99.99 percent of your fellow citizens.

    Sharing “your” beach with them shouldn’t be too much to ask.

    Keith Spera is a staff writer at the New Orleans Advocate newspaper and a Walton County property owner.


    https://www.nwfdailynews.com/news/20190421/guest-column-sharing-your-beach-shouldnt-be-too-much-to-ask
     
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  4. James Bentwood

    James Bentwood Beach Fanatic

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    Excellent letter!
     
  5. FactorFiction

    FactorFiction Beach Fanatic

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    I'll say it again: Any way you look at it, this ugly negativity that is now pervasive in our community is what is ruining 30A. It isn't any one group, it is individuals who are stirring up hate against whole groups. The posts on various social media sites and the majority of the media continue to disparage a whole group of beachfront owner/entities by claiming all sorts of half truths, calling names, and making disparaging remarks about people's character. Someone please explain how this is going to improve the place we all live or the situation on the beach. I don't see it.
     
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  6. Reggie Gaskins

    Reggie Gaskins Beach Lover

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    Spot on sir/madam. Intelligent folks like you see the problem, and the solution options, but more importantly; what NOT to do. The damage to 30A is a result of the public noise created by the carnival barkers, not the beach problem itself. But when the entire strategy is too whip up public emotion against a minority group based on hateful language, lies, and public stunts, it makes you wonder why? Publicly shaming private property owners and blaming innocent land owners for county misdeeds is wrong, deliberately advertising it across 20 states is quite malicious. Land Owners overreacting to the these attacks doesn't help either. But REFUSING to either meet, or even TALK about solutions, or REFUSING to consider compromise, indicates to us that things aren't as they seem. There is apparently an unnecessary, expensive, and painful road ahead for the citizens of Walton.
     
  7. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    I can't imagine being a gulf front property owner and claiming the beach as all mine. Putting up signs and making a stand against customary use of our beaches. What kind of community member comes to this special piece of the planet and does that? What kind of governor signs into law a way for property owners to claim private rights on the beach. Then signs an executive order that says we all have the right to enjoy all of our beaches except the damage is done and his order means absolutely nothing. Then he goes on to become Senator of Florida and leaves Walton County in a legal mess. We are seeing incompetence and corruption at the top. They really don't care. It's up to Walton County to fix this problem created by legislators who are very far from this county. How did that happen? That is the only real question.

    Supporting Customary Use is critical to the future of our beach town. Florida beaches belong to everyone.


    FB_IMG_1556376400532.jpg
     
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  8. Reggie Gaskins

    Reggie Gaskins Beach Lover

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    I'm glad to hear your thoughts Teresa. We are saying the same thing, you and I.
    We all came here because of the beach.
    We all love the old lifestyle here that we fell in love with.
    We all got along on the beach.
    We wish we could go back there.
    We all hate any signs and ropes on beach.
    We all hate mean and unreasonable beach owners.
    We all hate this community fighting.
    We all think government is to blame.
    We need to take back control of our quiet community lifestyle.
    The difference, in our current community, is how we believe we should fix it.
    Some believe in fixing it while still respecting private family investment, and recognizing their legal rights that came with what they paid for, documented with a deed.
    Some believe that we should remove private property rights altogether.
    Some believe in a Customary Use path.
    Some don't believe Customary Use exists without a court order.
    Some believe that State laws changed last year.
    Some believe no law changed anything about private beach property.
    Some believe there is a middle ground where everyone wins. That's most of us, and sounds like you too.
    Unfortunately, the slash and burn tactics are designed to prevent that dialogue.
     
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  9. FloridaBeachBum

    FloridaBeachBum Beach Fanatic

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    Dave Rauschkolb's ridiculous comment is the most ignorant and if not ignorant intentionally misleading.

    2002 Destin’s hired attorney David Theriaque (sound familiar) authored an ordinance to regulate (take) private beach that resulted in the Florida Attorney General rendering opinion 2002-38. That was 17 years ago.
    I know many beachfront owners have called the Walton Sheriff for trespass and posted signs for decades to protect their property rights. The property right all Walton property owners have had and have today. I hope Florida Beaches for All attorney Mr. Uhlfelder take these property owner's depositions.

    2007-10-09 BCC Customary Use. That was 12 years ago.
    Mr. Burke [County Attorney] discussed four options that should be considered for Walton County. Option one (1) is to do nothing and allow the private citizens to file suit. Option two (2) would be to adopt an ordinance establishing Customary Use definitions. This option could cause possible litigation. Option three (3) would be to file a class action law suit by the Board to determine whether the Doctrine of Customary Use applies. Mr. Burke did not recommend this option. Option four (4) would allow the Board to seek easements from private land owner for a Customary Use. This option may offer the property owner ad valorem tax relief and would probably be more successful. Mr. Burke suggested the Board review and to consider options two and four. Commissioner Comander made a motion to proceed with options two and four. Motion died for lack of second.
    http://www.clerkofcourts.co.walton.fl.us/document_center/Minutes/Regular_Meetings/20071009.pdf
    Why was BCC asking about CU in 2007?

    2007 BCC included Cindy Meadows, Larry Jones - now county administrator, and Sara Comander who with current commissioner’s inept spending of Walton taxpayer’s annual $100-$170 million dollars sought an ancient medieval English property rights common law doctrine of custom to a political problem of their own making. Why shouldn’t the commissioners? It’s not their personal money, it’s tax payer’s and private property owner’s money. Commissioners get votes whether they win or lose. If owner’s prevail it only cost many millions of tax payer’s money for Theriaque’s $425/hr and the property owners legal fees.

    "You buy next to a cow pasture, get used to the cows." Not if the cows (Dave Rauschkolb's word) are on my private property. I'd call the Sheriff - if he would enforce the law.

    “The beaches have always been shared and should be regardless of growth;...”
    Private beachfront was shared because beachfront owners had the right and chose to share. By license to those who were not invited I think is the legal term. Owners can revoke that license as is their Constitutional right. I for one will share no more, you can thank past and present Walton commissioners, Dave Rauschkolb, Dan Ulhfelder, and REALTORS like ECAR CEO Keith Dean (Floridians for the Preservation of Customary Use Executive Vice-President) and 2018 former REALTOR ECAR President Liz McMasters (first Director of Florida Beaches for All).

    Okaloosa and Bay counties do not have customary use ordinances (nor do 65 other counties) and the real estate market is increasing as well as Walton's.
    That Walton real estate and economy will collapse is baseless (fact-less) fear mongering. Even if there is a downturn the supply will not meet demand and property values will continue to appreciate - just like after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

    CU ignorance (misinformation) is not bliss. It cost everyone millions of dollars and ill will.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2019
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  10. FloridaBeachBum

    FloridaBeachBum Beach Fanatic

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    We could post published opinions on property rights but would likely be removed by Administrator so we don't.
     
  11. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    Total BS. And ridiculous
     
  12. Duchess

    Duchess Beach Lover

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    No matter what you think, people will stop coming to our area and spending their money. Period. Why go to the beach for a week if you're not welcome and you can't actually *get* to the beach? As a result, restaurants and other retail outlets will suffer. They will not be able to hire workers because they can't keep them with a living wage. Bed tax money will go down. And on and on. If you don't believe that simple economic truism, you are very very shortsighted. Obviously, a solution has to be reached. I am ashamed at how some beach front owners (and their security guards) are acting. Harassing locals and visitors for sitting within a few feet of the water, and so on. Happens in Blue Mountain ALL THE TIME.
     
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  13. FloridaBeachBum

    FloridaBeachBum Beach Fanatic

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    Teresa, do you deny SoWal admin have never removed posted public opinions before?

    Sunshine State News
    Walton County Customary-Use Leaders Playing a Dangerous Game By Nancy Smith
    Posted in part for length. Click link for article and 129 Comments.
    Walton County Customary-Use Leaders Playing a Dangerous Game

    Nowhere in Florida is the new law dealing with beach access the firestorm it has become in Walton County. The reason is complicated. But many folks along the panhandle's Emerald Coast claim it's not helping that a pair of local crusaders have a lot of citizens convinced House Bill 631 is the worst thing to befall Florida since Mercury went retrograde.

    Rauschkolb is a restaurateur, Uhlfelder an attorney. Together they're what former seasonal Seaside resident Lilly Bell calls "a tag team," dominating social media and public meetings to get people riled up against each other.

    "Walton used to have only a handful of beachfront residents who wanted to enforce their privacy all the way to the water," said the retired interior decorator. "But most of them didn't care if people sat on their sand. Then Dave and Dan came along and caught a glimpse of the fame and attention they could get nationally. Now we have a civil war here."

    HB 631, was sponsored by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, and Rep. Katie Edwards-Walpole, D-Plantation. The bill passed the Florida Legislature with an overwhelming bipartisan majority and 100 percent support of the Walton County delegation -- 29-7 March 6 in the Senate and 95-17 March 8 in the House [Including Rep Brad Drake]. That's a total of 24 votes against in the whole of the Legislature. No wonder the governor didn't veto it. Why would he?.

    In addition, Rauschkolb was interviewed on the Weather Channel, which serves millions of viewers across America. National Public Radio showed up on the beach soon after. So did U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, looking for an opportunity to kick the governor, his senatorial opponent in November. And between the two proactive "protests" -- Uhlfelder's and Rauschkolb's and what has been described as "dozens of media interview requests," Walton's war for the beach had begun.

    129 Comments
    Walton County Customary-Use Leaders Playing a Dangerous Game

    Submitted by Dave Rauschkolb on September 18, 2018 - 5:49pm
    I believe this characterizes our situation adequately and offers solutions whether our County is awarded renewed Customary Use or not. ACCESS AND USE, CONVENIENCE ADVANTAGES AND SOLUTIONS FOR HOUSEKEEPING ON THE BEACH This issue is based on the difference between access and use....

    Submitted by Walton Resident on September 18, 2018 - 9:12pm
    You wonder why people have had enough of Dave and this issue and his behavior? Now you have more proof right here on this page. The obfuscation above is almost incredible. He confuses leadership with obfuscation. Hell he probably doesn’t even know the difference. He is unintelligible. You ask him a pointed question or uncover that he’s been misleading his vocal minority on a serious fact, he resorts to obfuscation and distractions that in his mind he thinks is brilliant. The number of times he says me and I in this monologue as also is notable.

    Submitted by Dave Rauschkolb on September 11, 2018 - 6:55am
    The small number of beachfront owners who have over several years systematically been taking quiet title, putting up no trespassing signs and lobbying the Florida legislature to kill our Customary Use ordinance are very upset because their little plan is being brought into the light..... [Except the 650+ private property owners intervening in Walton's customary use litigation.]

    Submitted by James Lince on September 11, 2018 - 12:48pm
    Legal Dave "taking quiet title". There is no such thing in law or fact. Conspiracy Dave: "the small number of beachfront owners have been systematically taking [public beach property]". There's no evidence of public land being stolen through any "quiet title" claim and the number of claims is very small compared to the number of property owners.

    Submitted by Paul P. on September 12, 2018 - 6:29pm
    I have come to the realization that this article is a major trigger for those that want CU, look at the responses. They cannot handle the open and honest criticism in the piece as presented. I've researched this significantly since the "meeting" on Saturday and now my opinion on CU has changed dramatically. Where I was a staunch supporter, based on info from the community at large, this now sheds a very different light on the issue and I'll admit, it is very, very complex.

    Submitted by JR on September 11, 2018 - 5:53am
    This author got it right. As a 25 yr business owner on 30A, I publicly ask Dave and Daniel to stop this publicity stunt and false narrative. You are misleading the citizens with false facts, and it is you two who are so hungry for national attention, that are willfully hurting my business and everyone else’s in the name of your personal fame.
     
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  14. Reggie Gaskins

    Reggie Gaskins Beach Lover

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    Stop pointing fingers. Let’s don’t take this string where the rest go. Let’s be different. We were on a good track with both sides discussing towards solution. No need to argue over motives, let’s keep to facts. Here’s some questions to ponder, then let’s come up with fixes.
    Right here.
    Right now.
    On this string.
    1) Is trumpeting a terrible local narrative about “no” beach access across 20 states helping the local tourist economy, or is it sensationalism, and scaring people away?
    How can we do better?
    2) Is there really less public beach than there was 1, 5, 10, 20 years ago?
    How can we do better?
    3) Did private Beach owners start putting up signs to be mean, or did they start putting up signs because the county sued them for control of their property and then local activists prompted people to trespass to make a point?
    How can we do better?
    4) Has there been even one public forum where both sides have agreed to sit down and intelligently discuss these issues, or have both sides fought it out in social media echo chambers?
    How do we do better?
    I can see simple answers to these four questions. Should we start there Walton County? Let’s see what you’ve got.....
     
  15. jodiFL

    jodiFL Beach Fanatic

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    Its too late to think you can solve this here... it is right where the beach front owners wanted it.. in the courts. Thats where it will get resolved.
     
  16. jodiFL

    jodiFL Beach Fanatic

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    I keep seeing this thing about Walton county having "50% PUBLIC beaches".....he11,we just barely get 50% of the beaches that are public.
     
  17. Reggie Gaskins

    Reggie Gaskins Beach Lover

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    Jodi, thank you for bringing up the vendor program. Yet another example of county mismanaging public resources by allowing friends and family owned chair companies to eliminate public access to 50% of the public beaches. Again, nothing to do with Private Beach Front Owners, but rather inept managing of our largest county asset. Easy fix for that one well outside of Customary Use argument. And it solves, by your math, 50% of the problem. See? You came up with a great solution. Keep them coming folks, we’re getting somewhere.
     
  18. jodiFL

    jodiFL Beach Fanatic

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    All this is not helping the group of people that the sheriffs office was called on today. And from the looks of the picture they were very close to the waters edge. Most likely seaward of the MHWL...but no one has responded to my request to show a current TOPO survey that shows where that (not so)imaginary line in the sand is. I have always said that upland property owners do indeed own to that line but still not one has responded with a picture of that survey. And I am not talking about one from 1974...I mean current, one that a lender for a loan on said property would accept...(and the last time I had one done for my property the lender said it could not be older than 6 months) I saw something from Vizcaya from decades ago but it wasnt a TOPO and only had a sqwiggly line that said "appx. MHWL". Why,if that line is so important, will no one produce one ??
     
  19. Reggie Gaskins

    Reggie Gaskins Beach Lover

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    Jodi, I’m not an expert, but I’ve researched this. I’m only speaking for me here - That MHTL line has been recently surveyed by county. You’ll see those maps soon. Until then, look at the beach under a normal high tide, easily referenced daily. Assume that the average high tide line is seaward of that water mark. Why? Because we’ve had four major hurricanes and many tropical storms since 2,000 (19 yrs). Those storms caused much beach erosion, moving that average line over beach that is now under water. Simple math. Do you really want to know? Or are you just following our local class clown with more distracting drama? It’s a favorite diversion tactic of extremist publicity hounds that publicly embarrass our local law enforcement with that game.
    Regarding the sheriff; they weren’t called on the young couple today. Nope. They were called on the local activist who created a noisy scene and made a publicity stunt out of shaming a resident, deliberately using that innocent couple, all the while posing and capturing her selfies for social media. We all feel very sorry for the young couple being manipulated by these terroristic CU activists that have taken over our beaches and are scaring the public away. We all share your empathy.
     
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  20. Lake View Too

    Lake View Too SoWal Insider

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    This paragraph is a despicable distortion of the truth.
     
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