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THE BEACH - Walton County - Where Does It Go From Here

Rickey Stokes

Viewed: 5315

Posted by: RStokes
Date: Jun 28 2018 10:23 PM



Walton County Customary Use: Where do we go from here?

For the first time in history, Florida's legislative and executive branches have weighed in on the issue of customary use and how it may, or may not, apply to Florida beaches. As the legislature passed and the governor signed HB 631, a clear path was created to determine if the public has the right to recreationally use Florida beaches.

While this legislation voids the current Customary Use Ordinance in Walton County, as of July 1, 2018, it provides Walton, and all other Florida Counties, a legislatively approved and endorsed mechanism to advance a Customary Use claim through the judicial system.

The Walton County Board of County Commissioners has instructed staff to begin the process laid out in the legislation to substantiate a customary use claim. This will include the gathering of evidence and a public hearing to determine if such a claim is supported by substantial evidence and testimony. If so, the next step would be to present the testimony and evidence to a Judge through the appropriate legal process. If the Judge agrees with the County, the Customary Use Ordinance will be validated and take effect. If the Judge disagrees, the ordinance will be null and void.

The following steps are clearly spelled in the legislation in order for the County to pass and affirm a claim of customary use:

The County would schedule a public hearing to consider evidence and testimony supporting a finding of customary use of Walton County beaches. Notice of this meeting must be sent via certified mail to the owner of each parcel of property subject to customary use consideration and contain all statutory requirements. Such mailing shall be no later than 30 days prior to the public hearing.

At the public hearing, evidence will be presented and testimony taken supporting or not supporting the requirements of sustaining a customary use claim. If the Board of County Commissioners finds that there is sufficient, substantial testimony and evidence to support such a finding they may adopt a formal notice of intent to affirm the existence of recreational customary us on Walton County beaches.

Upon the adoption of a notice of intent, the Board of County Commissioners must file a Complaint for Declaration of Recreational Customary Use with the circuit court in Walton County within 60 days.

Notice of the filing must be provided by the county to the owner of each parcel of property subject to the complaint. This notice will provide a 45 day window for the noticed property owner to intervene in the proceeding if they so choose.

Once the above process is completed it will become the responsibility of the court, through the appropriate judicial proceedings, to determine whether Walton County's evidence meets the required burden of proof and demonstrates that recreational customary use exists on the parcels of property listed in the formal notice of intent.

While this process may be lengthy and cumbersome, it provides the County with the opportunity to "have its day in court", as it presents all evidence and testimony in the appropriate proceeding, anticipating a favorable ruling which will solidify the public's right to use all the beaches of Walton County for recreational purposes.

At your service,

Louis E. Svehla
Public Information Manager
Walton Board of County Commissioners
76 North 6th Street
DeFuniak Springs, FL 32435
Phone: 850-892-8155 x1010
Cell: 850-333-6404

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