Thursday, December 3, 2009

Beach property rights

"Supreme Court arguments over Florida homeowners' property rights took a lively turn Wednesday as justices raised scenarios of college spring-break parties, noisy hot dog stands and portable toilets on once-private beaches. The case that appeared to divide justices tests whether Florida's restoration of coastline through the addition of sand and a new public beach is a government "taking" of land that requires payment to property owners. The Florida Supreme Court ruled against the six property owners from the Panhandle last year and endorsed state law allowing the new sand to prevent erosion and protect buildings. The stakes are significant in Florida, which has the longest coastline of the 48 contiguous states. More broadly, the court's view of judges' latitude for deciding property rights clashes could affect disputes nationwide."

I was sort of involved in this dispute at the beginning of Florida's beach replenishment program, when repeated storms were sweeping all the beach sand out to sea, threatening beach front homes, condos and shops.

Years ago, as a city commissioner and member of the Florida League of Cities, I suggested that any public funding for beach replenishment be conditioned upon public access to the beaches being replenished. Otherwise, let the private property owners pay for their own sand.

The Supreme Court and the media appear to be focusing on whether the government is "taking" private backyard beaches by the application of this policy.

Instead, they should focus on whether taxpayers' general revenue funds should be taken for the benefit of a few millionaires with beach front homes (including several Supreme Court justices).

If these millionaires don't want me on their beaches, they don't need to take my taxes to pay for their backyard beach replenishment. And, when their property is eventually swept out to sea after the next bad cycle of storms, they'll no longer have to worry about any beachgoers behind their mansions.

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