Friday, December 4, 2009

Beach bummer: when giving is taking

It sounds like a vaudeville joke:

We're going to dump some sand and widen your beach. -- That's good.
You don't have beachfront property anymore. -- That's bad.

It's also one for the Supreme Court: Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

That's it in a nutshell; the state wants to turn ocean front property into ocean view property and six landowners don't like that one bit. Is ocean frontage a property right?

The Kelo case was easy for me, I didn't like taking those people's houses for redevelopment.

This one is a tougher call, but then I've always lived in places where, theoretically, you had access to beachfronts even if they were private property. Theoretically, because it's not always easy to find a way to the beach through private land.

Evidently Justice John Paul Stevens has disqualified himself because of an apartment he owns in Florida. No word on Justice Antonin Scalia. Oh, yeah, it's Florida; he'd just tell us to get over it.

I'm interested, but not too concerned. We're more civilized about such things on Saipan. Here, the owners would just start landscaping, and maybe slip in a pavilion or tennis court.

1 comment:

Saipan Writer said...

I thought the discussion of this on NPR was pretty good.

The state's position:
Florida has a state interest in keeping land values up and pretty beaches for tourism--the state's economic engine. Storms and other natural phenomenon erode beaches terribly. The state willingly restores or protects the beaches, but the fill they put in becomes public property. The state owns the submerged land--they've just "emerged" it. Adjacent landowners still have 1) complete access to the water; 2) unfettered visual access (nothing can be built to obstruct views); and 3) their full square footage of property.

The property owners:
It changes the nature of the property by creating uses that invite more public uses than presently exist. (I'm sure there were more arguments for the property owners, but I've forgotten them.)

The Justices also seemed on top of things--asking about adding hot dog stands on the public strip; talking about the complex interplay of state law with the land ownership issue, etc.

To me, the reason this is interesting is because Florida is a state that has lots of beaches, relies on tourism, and has suffered damage from tropical storms and hurricanes. Sounds very familiar.