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SoWal Buff

Beach Comber
Sep 4, 2011
22
5
Take notice that the Walton County Board of County Commissioners will hold a
SPECIAL MEETING and a closed EXECUTIVE SESSION on May 23, 2023 at 4:00 p.m., or
as soon as possible after that time, at the Walton County Board of County Commissioners
Boardroom, 842 State Highway 20 E, Suite 118 Freeport, Florida, to discuss the following:

In Re: Affirming Existence of Recreational Customary Use on 1,194 Private Properties Located
in Walton County, Florida, Case No. 2018-CA-547


The following persons will attend the meeting: the Board of Commissioners, William
“Boots” McCormick, Danny Glidewell, Donna Johns, and Tony Anderson; Tony Cornman,
Interim County Administrator; Clay Adkinson, Acting County Attorney; Matthew Richardson,
Assistant County Attorney; Frankie White, Assistant County Attorney; David Theriaque, Glenn
Burhans, Bill Warner and Eric Krebs, Special Counsel. This meeting will be recorded by a certified
court reporter. The court reporter will prepare a verbatim record of the meeting, which will be
sealed until conclusion of the litigation. The executive session is not open to the public pursuant
to Section 286.011(8), Florida Statutes.
 

miznotebook

Beach Fanatic
Jul 8, 2009
964
604
Stone's throw from Inlet Bch



For the third time since Feb. 23, the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) has voted to approve a settlement agreement in connection with the county’s customary use complaint in Walton County Circuit Court—a case ongoing for over four years in which the county had been seeking to affirm the existence of recreational customary use of the beach

The latest vote took place at a May 15 BCC special meeting at Freeport Commons, with several commissioners also making brief remarks before voting.

Discussions on the settlement agreement have been mainly in closed session. The settlement agreement has remained confidential and has not been available for public disclosure. As of the May 15 meeting, there had been no announcement or official statement by the county about the settlement, and Walton County’s practice is not to discuss ongoing lawsuits in public. Also, to date it has not been revealed whether the three BCC approvals on the settlement were for the same settlement agreement or a different one, or for different versions of the agreement.

After discussing the settlement agreement in closed session on May 15, the BCC heard two proposed revisions to the agreement presented by Clay Adkinson, acting county attorney. Adkinson asked for a motion to approve and transmit the settlement agreement as discussed in the previous session with those changes—and for the BCC chairman to sign the revised agreement once signatures of the lawsuit parties participating in the settlement were received.

There was a motion for approval by District 1 Commissioner Boots McCormick, seconded by District 4 Commissioner Donna Johns.

“Before we vote,” said District 4 Commissioner Tony Anderson, “I want to say this. It’s with a heavy heart that we have come to this point. I still think customary use is entitled on the entire beach, but I don’t think we’re going to get better than this, the way the court system works.”

He continued, speaking of the settlement, “So it’s with a heavy heart that I vote yes on this…and I believe we all do…but when your lawyers tell you this is…probably as good as it’s going to get, and the rulings we’ve had, I think this is the best way for us to go right now.”

McCormick agreed, saying, “Just for the record, I concur with the same personal feelings, I hate this. From growing up here, I hate it. It’s a compromise, and I hate it.”

He continued, “But for me, when you’re in a situation where it’s kind of made clear up front, even apparently, by the judge, that neither party is going to get 100 percent of what they want, it pretty much forces us into just trying to get the best deal we can for our citizens, and I think we have achieved that.”

“I agree,” Anderson said.

“I concur with you all,” said BCC Chairman Danny Glidewell, “and I would also add that there’s conservatively eight million reasons that this was sort of the best way to go, and I think we did what we…or are going to do what we had to do.”

“And if I may add in, Mr. Chairman,” Adkinson interjected, “to put a finer point on that, your eight million reasons obviously reflect the amount of costs and fees that may be incurred in the trial—a conservative number was given to the board previously, and I’ll say it in public meeting now—of $3 to $4 million to make it through an eight-week trial with expectation it may take longer than eight weeks, on top of the money that’s already been spent.”

Adkinson stated that, based on what had been presented to the BCC the previous week (in closed executive session), with likely more “buy-in” by property owners who had intervened in the lawsuit in opposition, he believed that “we’ll secure at least two-thirds of the beaches in Walton County for some form of public access moving forward—and we hope that number is going to continue to grow with enforcement.”

“So, what this board has done,” Adkinson told the commissioners, “is secured approximately two-thirds of the beaches in Walton County without having to incur those trial fees.”

(It was not clarified whether the two-thirds calculation includes the approximately seven miles of state park beachfront—and/or the approximately 4.85 miles along the west end with a public use area from 50 to 85 feet in depth lying seaward of the Erosion Control Line (ECL), varying by location. The latter is with the exception of approximately 200 linear feet in the Sand Trap Road area, where the ECL was vacated. Other than the 4.85-mile west end section, for the rest of the 26-mile-long Walton County coastline plus the 200-foot-long section, the Mean High Water (MHWL) line serves as the boundary between upland property subject to private ownership and beach property “held in trust for all people,” per the Florida Constitution. In addition, some sections of the beach are county-owned or leased, and there are public dedications for other sections.)

With a vote taken, McCormick’s previous motion for approval carried unanimously (4-0).

The customary use case remains open, with the trial date tentatively set for June 12.
 
Last edited:

mputnal

Beach Fanatic
Nov 10, 2009
2,291
1,801
It sounds like we are all going to have a "heavy heart" and wealthy corporations will take another 1/3 of our beautiful natural resources. Wow!
 

miznotebook

Beach Fanatic
Jul 8, 2009
964
604
Stone's throw from Inlet Bch

“Well, gentlemen, I want to get this case to trial if it’s necessary before we all die of old age,” Walton County Circuit Court Judge David Green told attorneys representing clients in Walton County’s customary use complaint on June 1.

Not determined at this time is whether there will be a trial. However, Judge Green assured the attorneys that the case would go to trial if all issues were not resolved.

Judge Green’s remarks were at a June 1 court hearing. at the Walton County Courthouse. He is presiding over Walton County’s customary use complaint, a case filed in 2018 in which Walton County had been seeking to affirm a right by the public to customary recreational use of the beach on 1,194 privately-owned beachfront parcels.

A May 22 trial date had previously been set for the case. At the request of Walton County’s legal counsel, that date had previously been postponed and reset for June 12. The request had been explained as being related to the county legal counsel having worked with attorneys representing intervening parties to arrive at a settlement agreement, an agreement expected to resolve “the vast majority of the case.”

Hundreds of parties, mostly of those beachfront property owners, had intervened in the lawsuit in opposition to the county effort.

The settlement document has not been made available to the public at this time.

At the June 1 court hearing, legal counsel for the county and counsel for the intervenors reported that they were continuing to work toward settlement of the case.
 

WalCo

Beach Lover
Sep 13, 2021
193
78
Walton County FL
WALTON COUNTY BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
OFFICE OF THE COUNTY ATTORNEY

Clay Adkinson, Acting County Attorney
Frankie A. White, Assistant C/»unty Attorney
Matthew J. Richardson, Assistant County Attorney (ncmatt@coxvalton
161 SIOSS Avenue
DeFuniak Springs, FL 32433
m-,one (850)892-8110
Facsimile (850)892-8471

Date: June 7, 2023
From: Clay Adkinson
NOTICE OF SPECIAL MEETING FOR EXECUTIVE SESSION
Take notice that the Walton County Board of County Commissioners will hold a
SPECIAL MEETING and a closed EXECUTIVE SESSION on June 26, 2023 at 9:00 a.m., or
as soon as possible after that time, at the Walton County Board of County Commissioners
Boardroom in the Walton County Courthouse located at 571 US Highway 90 East DeFuniak
Springs, Florida, to discuss the following:
In Re: Affirming Existence of Recreational Customary Use on l, 194 Private Properties Located
in Walton County, Florida, Case No. 2018-C4-547

The following persons will attend the meeting: the Board of Commissioners, William
"Boots" McCormick, Danny Glidewell, Donna Johns, and Tony Anderson; Tony Cornman,
Interim County Administrator; Clay Adkinson, Acting County Attorney; Matthew Richardson,
Assistant County Attorney; Frankie White, Assistant County Attorney; David Theriaque, Glenn
Burhans, Bill Warner and Eric Krebs, Special Counsel. This meeting will be recorded by a certified
court reporter. The court rqx)rter will prepare a verbatim record of the meeting, which will be
sealed until conclusion of the litigation. The executive session is not open to the public pursuant
to Section 286.011(8), Florida Statutes.
Clay Adkinson, Acting County Attorney
As approved by the BCC on January 24, 2023.
 

Jim Tucker

Beach Fanatic
Jul 12, 2005
1,203
499

By DOTTY NIST

The public has now been able to learn more about the final settlement agreement approved by Walton County in connection with the county’s customary use court complaint, through which the county had been seeking to affirm a right by the public to customary recreational use on all privately-owned properties along the beachfront.

The 37-page settlement agreement first became available by public records request during the week of June 5. There has been no official announcement or statement by Walton County regarding the agreement.

The customary use case and approval of the settlement agreement

The Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) had approved the final version of the settlement agreement in a May 15, 2023, special meeting after a closed executive session.

The lawsuit had been filed in Walton County Circuit Court in December 2018, with notification provided to owners of 1,194 beachfront parcels. The court filing had been in line with requirements for affirmation of recreational customary use of the beach that went into effect with House Bill 631, legislation which had also negated Walton County’s customary use ordinance.

Hundreds of parties, mainly beachfront property owners, had opted to intervene in the lawsuit in opposition to the county court effort.

A trial had previously been scheduled to begin on May 22, 2023, but has been delayed at the request of Walton County’s legal counsel, who have been working to resolve all issues in the matter in order to avoid a trial. The counsel have stated that the settlement agreement was negotiated between representatives of the county and “several intervenors.”

In April 2023, prior to Walton County’s approval of the final version of the settlement agreement, the county had dropped several hundred parcels from the lawsuit. These are located in what was designated as Zone 1 in the lawsuit, consisting of the area between the western boundary of Topsail Hill State Park and the Walton-Okaloosa County line (approximately 4.85 miles in length)..

According to the settlement agreement, through the agreement Walton County consents to entry of a final judgment determining the issue of customary use to be “now and forever moot” for any parcel becoming part of the agreement. The parties entering into the agreement are to be dismissed from the lawsuit “with prejudice,” meaning that the county would not be able to go back to court in the future to seek to affirm customary use there.

Intervenors participating in the agreement would agree to pay their own attorney fees and costs in the lawsuit.

The agreement also provides for any of the participating parties’ pending counterclaims against Walton County to be dismissed by those parties “with prejudice,” or on a final basis.

Terms for participating parties

Terms for parties participating in the agreement include allowing the general public on their privately-owned parcels within the area 20 feet landward of the wet/dry sand line under some conditions. This area is known in the agreement as the Transitory Zone (TZ).

The agreement provides for specified uses only of the TZ by the public. The uses consist of walking, running, jogging, access to the wet sand and water for swimming, surfing, surf fishing, and skim boarding—and, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., “sunbathing uses.”

The agreement defines sunbathing uses as “consisting of standing, sitting, or laying [sic], either on the sand or on a beach towel or in/on a beach chair that is privately owned by the user and is not stored by nor associated with a third party vendor, condominium association, townhome association, hotel, motel, bed and breakfast…” Umbrellas are not mentioned with the “sunbathing” definition.

The TZ uses are to be allowed per the agreement regardless of whether all or any portion of the TZ is landward or seaward of the Mean High Water Line (MHWL).

Except for the uses specified, the agreement prohibits all other uses of the TZ—except for parcel owners, their renters and guests, and other users permitted by the owners on the participating party’s own beach parcel.

The agreement prohibits the general public from any area of a beach parcel owned by a party participating in the agreement except within the TZ for the specified TZ uses only.

The agreement does not prevent a property owner from entering into a contract with a beach vendor to put beach chairs and umbrellas on their property, including within the TZ, for the use of the owner, renters, guests, etc.

The agreement recognizes the property owner as having rights “superior” to those of the general public in the TZ, and an owner would not be prevented from using “all” of the TZ in line with the terms of the agreement.

It is also stated that the sunbathing uses in the TZ as defined in the agreement “may only be exercised by the General Public if the Beach Parcel Owner is not actively using that area.”

Failure of any member of the general public to cease the sunbathing uses upon the property owner’s request would be considered an act of trespass in violation of state statute.

The agreement provides for a property owner to exclude any member of the public who is not “respectfully conducting themselves,” or not complying with the agreement or the Walton County Beach Activities Ordinance, while engaging in TZ uses.

A property owner is to be allowed to designate a representative (potentially a security guard) to exclude unauthorized persons from the property, with that designation to be provided to Walton County Code Compliance and the WCSO.

The agreement also limits use of the TZ by the public to a maximum density of the equivalent of one person per five feet of beach parcel gulf frontage, with the county to enforce this limit.

The agreement requires the county to strictly enforce a restriction on beach chairs and/or umbrellas being set up seaward of the TZ (i.e., in the wet sand area) “by any person.” “The parties agree that such area shall be kept free of obstructions to provide for transit of required enforcement and safety personnel,” per the agreement.

Participating property owners are to have the right to put up signs as large as 24” x 36” from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. stating limits or restrictions on public access to their property—and the county is to work with the owners to arrive at signage informing the public about the TZ on the property and allowable uses.

Other county rights and responsibilities per the agreement

The agreement provides for joint training meetings between Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) deputies and Walton County Code Compliance officers “on the county’s goal in respecting Participating Intervenor Beach Parcel Owners’ rights to use their Beach Parcels to the exclusion of the General Public, other than the General Public’s Transitory Uses within the Transitory Zones,” subject to conditions in the agreement.

Within one year from the effective date of the agreement, Walton County is to conduct a study to “determine the need for additional public recreational beach access parcels,” that will include a survey of the beaches. For privately-owned beach parcels with erosion, the county is to work with the owner to modify transitory uses as needed “until such time that Beach Parcel is renourished.” The county would also be allowed to acquire/purchase beach parcels either by negotiation or by eminent domain proceedings.

The agreement provides that Walton County will not allow any of the county’s experts who had been retained in the lawsuit to use any materials prepared for the case in “any proceeding attempting to establish customary use in Walton County.”

Property owners not entering the agreement

According to the 37-page document, intervenors in the lawsuit who do not join in the agreement will be dismissed from the lawsuit without prejudice on certain conditions. Among these are that the parties have not filed counterclaims against the county or that they dismiss any such counterclaims, plus agree to pay their own attorney fees and costs. The “without prejudice” dismissal would then convert to a “with prejudice” dismissal if the county has not refiled in court before May 31, 2024, also subject to the previous conditions.

The several hundred parcels on the west end dismissed from the lawsuit by the county in April had been dismissed without prejudice. The document provides for those properties to also be dismissed with prejudice in the absence of any counterclaims against the county by the property owners and with their payment of their own fees and costs in the lawsuit.

For owners of properties noticed/included in the lawsuit who did not opt to intervene in the lawsuit, the agreement provides for the county to either dismiss those parcels without prejudice—or, if the county goes to court seeking to affirm customary use rights in those locations, for those rights by the public to be consistent with what exists on the properties entering into the agreement for setting up a TZ, per the agreement.

Upcoming court hearing

A 9 a.m. June 30 court hearing has been scheduled in Walton County Circuit Court in the customary use case. This is to be a case management hearing at which Walton County Circuit Court Judge David Green, presiding judge, will determine whether any unresolved issues remain and whether there is a need for a trial.

A trial date of July 10 has been set in the event a trial is still deemed to be required.
 

bob bob

Beach Fanatic
Mar 29, 2017
754
431
SRB
Seems complicated. Like swimmers and owners will need to meet on the beach with their lawyers and LEO daily.

WHat a mess. Greed ruins everything.
 

conch

Beach Comber
Mar 5, 2010
37
26
WOW! Let me see if I understand this correctly. The public can use 20 Feet of beach, the "TZ", at the "rate" of one
person per 5 ft of gulf front. That would be 10 persons for a 50 ft wide parcel. Yet the property owner would be allowed to fill the entire "TZ" from property line to property line with "beach setups" {chairs /umbrellas} which would be a lot more than 10 persons. By having the "BS" {see what I did there?} in place, it would mean that the property owner is "actively" using the area and therefore no public allowed.
In addition, the property owner is allowed to require that a person cease "sunbathing" or be considered "trespassing"!

What exactly did we "the public" gain from this agreement?

I can't wait to see all those "security guards" taking all those 24"x36" signs out to the beach at 07:00, and then gathering them ALL up at 19:00 each evening. Yeah right like that's going to happen!

I say let's litigate not negotiate ! FREE BEACHS FOR ALL !
 

Matt J

SWGB
May 9, 2007
24,807
9,591
Woof, no wonder this was worked out in secret. Folded like a lawn chair. Free the beach!!

Commissioners have to hold executive sessions so the opposition doesn't know the plan. Albeit this was worked out by idiots in power that prefer reelection over doing what's right.
 
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