Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

County Requests Court Dismiss Beach Access Suit

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

County Requests Court Dismiss Beach Access Suit

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon, Shorelines staff writer

St. Johns County is asking a Circuit Court judge to throw out a Surfrider Foundation lawsuit challenging the county's beach access policies in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Deputy County Attorney Michael Hunt filed a motion to dismiss Monday in response to Surfrider's January suit, which is seeking to put county commissioners on trial and asks Circuit Judge Michael Traynor to repeal the county's policies and actions related to 14 public beach access points along Ponte Vedra Boulevard. Surfrider says not all of the accesses are readily available for people who don't live in the area.

"I don't believe they have a well-planned cause of action," Hunt said of Surfrider's suit. "I don't believe there's the preciseness needed to constitutionally challenge any of the actions of the county."

The Surfrider suit says the county is violating the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution by not providing enough access to non-beachfront residents who want to get to the coastline in Ponte Vedra Beach. The First Amendment violation claim states the county is denying the right to assembly and the 14th Amendment claim says the county lacks due process for residents.

Hunt said he expects a court ruling on the nine-page motion to dismiss relatively soon.

"I'm not sure what the time frame would be. But typically, in this type of action, there'll be a hearing the judge will conduct. We will be requesting a hearing," Hunt said. "Obviously, the plaintiff in this case can file an objection to our claim."

Scott Shine, chairman of the First Coast chapter of Surfrider, said he counted on a motion to dismiss from the county when he filed the suit Jan. 28.

"It's a standard response for any party to ask for a dismissal," Shine said. "We anticipated and expected it."

Shine said he hadn't seen the motion when he was contacted for comment this week, but he is surprised the county's raising issues with the constitutional challenges initially made in the Surfrider suit. …

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