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Florida Residents Lose Beach Dispute

Posted on June 24, 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday, June 17, ruled that the state can widen the beach without paying compensation to beachfront property owners. A Miami Herald article reports that the issue was brought before the high court by six homeowners in the Florida Panhandle. They argued that when the state widened the beach, it changed their property from ocean front private property to an ocean view property, simply overlooking a now public beach.

But the justices voted 8-0 confirming a lower Florida Supreme Court decision that the beach-widening project did not amount to the “taking” of property. Justice John Paul Stevens abstained from voting because he owns a waterfront condo in Ft. Lauderdale slated for a beach-erosion project where sand is brought in to offset erosion of the beach.

Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection believes that adding sand to offset erosion provides storm protection for upland properties, restores plant and animal habitat, and creates recreational areas of the beach which draws to Florida about 27 million visitors a year, but the U.S. Constitution says the government is supposed to pay “just compensation” when private property is taken for public use.

The six homeowners said that replenishing the beach made the value of their property decline and they wanted Florida to compensate them for taking their property which is supposed to run to the water line at high tide.

There is nearly seven miles of storm-battered beach that is supposed to receive new sand from Destin through neighboring Walton County. It is to be designated as public property rather than private property of the homeowners forcing them to lose their exclusive beach rights.