WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) – The battle for beach access continues in Walton County.
A Walton County Circuit Judge David W. Green rejected the arguments of several landholder groups claiming customary use violates the state and federal constitutions.
Customary use is a concept that allows the public to use parts of beaches that are privately owned.
In 1974, the Florida Supreme Court ruled to ensure people could access portions of beaches “below mean high water lines,” or wet sand.
But customary use also includes dry-sand areas of beaches that are often privately owned.
Northshore Holdings, LLC and Lavin Family Development, LLC. sued to prevent usage of those dry lands, calling it unconstitutional.
But there is a second case, in which Walton County officials are still trying to uphold customary use on over 1,100 parcels of private property.
“This case simply dealt with the constitutionality of customary use,” attorney for Walton County David Theriaque said. “If Judge Green had ruled against the county and held that customary use is unconstitutional, then the county would have lost both cases. But by holding that customary use is constitutional, Walton County can continue its efforts to demonstrate that customary use exists throughout the beaches in South Walton.”
Green wrote in his ruling that he is “Without authority to enter a judgment finding the doctrine of customary use as established by the Florida Supreme Court unconstitutional.”
An attorney for the private landowners said this outcome was expected.
“While we believe that subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decisions render the Florida Supreme Court’s 1974 decision invalid and unconstitutional, we understand that the current Florida Supreme Court will be the court that decides that question. The current trial court judgment is the first in the process to get this case before the current Florida Supreme Court.”
The landowners are expected to appeal the decision to the state district courts, then the Florida Supreme Court.
No word as to when that will happen.