PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Gates are being put up throughout the Sunnyside neighborhood in Panama City Beach. But the barriers are being placed by the Sunnyside Property Owners Association, which does not own the property.

The land is instead owned by the McCorquodale family, who has owned the property for more than 100 years.

The family does not want the gates put up, and wants the beach access points to remain open to the public. 

“I would liken it to if your neighbor came and put up a gate in your front yard,” Family Member of the Homeowners Crystal Muphy said. “How that would feel if you went to pull into your driveway and there was a locked gate. You’d probably feel like they had no right to do that.”

Property tax records show the Sunnyside Property Owners Association has paid the property taxes on the land for years. But in December 2021, Bay County Tax Officials said McCorquodale’s emailed the office stating that the property had never been conveyed to the Property Owner’s Association (POA). Tax officials said they then changed ownership back to the McCorquodale’s.

“That elitist mentality that we have dealt with just next door in Walton County has now crept over into Bay County,” Panama City Beach Resident David Howard said of the POA. 

Besides the gate, the POA has also put up no parking and no trespassing signage. Bay County Commissioners hope the gates are taken down and the land remains open for public usage.

“From our standpoint the property owner has always allowed the public to use the property,” Bay County Commissioner Doug Moore said. “And we stand by the property owner and think it should be used for the customary use of all citizens of Bay County.”