May 19, 2024


Making a New Home

Judge Rejects COVID-19 Property Rights Case

3 min read

In Walton County, commissioners shut down beaches in the course of the pandemic, which includes private ones. Home owners sued saying they are entitled to compensation, but a choose explained no.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In a dispute that began following a Northwest Florida county briefly closed beach locations early in the COVID-19 pandemic, a federal decide dominated against waterfront property house owners who contended that they should really get payment.

U.S. District Choose Robert Hinkle issued a 19-page determination rejecting arguments that moves by the Walton County Commission to shut beaches in spring 2020 resulted in an unconstitutional “taking” of home. The lawsuit focused on people today remaining not able to use parts of the seashore that they possess, instead than on beaches being closed to the normal community.

Hinkle wrote that the plaintiffs have been continue to ready to use considerably of their assets and that the county commission was working with its “police electricity in a public-wellbeing emergency.”

“The bottom line is this. The Board of County Commissioners faced an escalating pandemic that posed an great risk to public health,” Hinkle wrote in the determination issued final week. “There was no way to know at that time how lots of folks would die or grow to be gravely sick and how best to minimize the quantity. Decisive motion appeared proper. In closing the shorelines, the county exhibited no animus towards these plaintiffs or any person else. Alternatively, the commissioners exercised their ideal judgment, based on the restricted awareness out there at the time, on how to maintain lifestyle and well being.”

Hinkle also pointed to the temporary nature of the closure.

“The plaintiffs experienced total, unfettered, special obtain to some of the world’s most attractive shorelines for 337 times all through 2020. … That the plaintiffs’ access to element of their home was limited for 29 days in an energy to safeguard the neighborhood was not an unconstitutional taking,” he wrote.

Seashore closures ended up a closely watched issue early in the pandemic, as illustrations or photos of crowds of beachgoers, which includes spring breakers, flashed across the state though the figures of COVID-19 cases started to soar.

Walton County, in between Panama Metropolis and Destin, has noticed a making boom in new many years, with multimillion-dollar households popping up along its beach locations.

Hinkle wrote that the Walton County Commission handed an ordinance on March 19, 2020, that prohibited associates of the community from accessing seashores and followed up April 2, 2020, with a revised ordinance that used to all persons. Beach locations reopened Might 1, 2020, and have remained open considering that then.

Below Florida law, privately owned beach front assets usually extends to a point recognized as the indicate higher-water line. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit also cited residence owners’ “littoral” rights, which present entry to the water.

In a court docket doc submitted past 12 months arguing for summary judgment, the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote that “for 29 times the plaintiffs had been prohibited, underneath threat of arrest, from entering their have private assets (i.e., their backyards).”

“This (April 2, 2020) ordinance was not made to lower transmission of COVID-19 on this private land but somewhat was made to make enforcement of the County’s general public-seashore closure a lot easier,” the document explained. “Because Walton County deprived the plaintiffs of each strand in their bundle of assets legal rights even though the ordinance was in effect, the plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment as to all counts of the criticism.”

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