January 31, 2023

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Judge Rejects COVID-19 Property Rights Case

In Walton County, commissioners shut down shorelines throughout the pandemic, such as personal types. Owners sued saying they deserve payment, but a choose mentioned no.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In a dispute that commenced following a Northwest Florida county briefly closed beach locations early in the COVID-19 pandemic, a federal judge dominated against waterfront property owners who contended that they need to obtain compensation.

U.S. District Choose Robert Hinkle issued a 19-webpage determination rejecting arguments that moves by the Walton County Fee to near shorelines in spring 2020 resulted in an unconstitutional “taking” of property. The lawsuit focused on persons being not able to use spots of the beach that they individual, somewhat than on shorelines becoming shut to the typical general public.

Hinkle wrote that the plaintiffs had been nonetheless equipped to use considerably of their property and that the county fee was using its “police electric power in a public-wellness crisis.”

“The bottom line is this. The Board of County Commissioners confronted an escalating pandemic that posed an great menace to community wellbeing,” Hinkle wrote in the determination issued past 7 days. “There was no way to know at that time how lots of people today would die or turn out to be gravely sick and how ideal to reduce the amount. Decisive motion seemed appropriate. In closing the shorelines, the county exhibited no animus toward these plaintiffs or any individual else. As a substitute, the commissioners exercised their ideal judgment, primarily based on the confined knowledge offered at the time, on how to maintain existence and overall health.”

Hinkle also pointed to the temporary mother nature of the closure.

“The plaintiffs had entire, unfettered, exceptional access to some of the world’s most stunning seashores for 337 times all through 2020. … That the plaintiffs’ obtain to component of their house was limited for 29 times in an effort and hard work to safeguard the neighborhood was not an unconstitutional using,” he wrote.

Seashore closures had been a carefully watched challenge early in the pandemic, as pictures of crowds of beachgoers, like spring breakers, flashed across the state whilst the quantities of COVID-19 cases commenced to soar.

Walton County, among Panama Town and Destin, has found a creating growth in recent years, with multimillion-greenback houses popping up alongside its shorelines.

Hinkle wrote that the Walton County Fee passed an ordinance on March 19, 2020, that prohibited users of the public from accessing shorelines and followed up April 2, 2020, with a revised ordinance that used to all people today. Shorelines reopened May perhaps 1, 2020, and have remained open due to the fact then.

Beneath Florida regulation, privately owned beach property commonly extends to a point acknowledged as the suggest significant-drinking water line. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit also cited house owners’ “littoral” rights, which provide entry to the water.

In a court document filed final calendar year arguing for summary judgment, the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote that “for 29 times the plaintiffs were prohibited, underneath menace of arrest, from getting into their personal private residence (i.e., their backyards).”

“This (April 2, 2020) ordinance was not built to lessen transmission of COVID-19 on this non-public land but relatively was designed to make enforcement of the County’s public-beach front closure much easier,” the doc reported. “Because Walton County deprived the plaintiffs of each individual strand in their bundle of house legal rights even though the ordinance was in outcome, the plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment as to all counts of the criticism.”

Source: Information Provider of Florida