Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Supreme Court Takes Up Property-Rights Case

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Supreme Court Takes Up Property-Rights Case

Article excerpt

The US Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case examining whether the Florida Supreme Court violated the private property rights of waterfront landowners in a seven-mile-long beach restoration project.

The beach has been eroded by a series of hurricanes and tropical storms.

At issue in the case is whether the state high court violated the US Constitution's takings clause when it upheld a Florida government plan to create a state-owned public beach, 60 feet to 120 feet wide, between private waterfront land and the Gulf of Mexico near Destin, Fla.

In effect, the beach renourishment plan would convert privately owned waterfront property into waterview property without any compensation paid to the landowner, according to lawyers for the owners.

"This case is the ideal vehicle for [the US Supreme Court] to finally rein in activist state courts that continue to invoke non- existent rules of state substantive law to avoid takings claims by declaring no property rights ever existed," writes D. Kent Safriet, a Tallahassee lawyer in his brief on behalf of Stop the Beach Renourishment Inc., a property-owner group.

The high court announced its decision to hear the case in an order issued on Monday. Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida will be argued during the high court's next term, which begins in October.

Florida's 40-year-old Beach and Shore Preservation Act establishes a procedure for the state to restore eroded shorelines.

The seaward boundary of beachfront private property extends to the mean high water line (MHWL), a boundary that shifts over time with the size of the beach. In contrast, the Shore Preservation Act replaces the MHWL with a fixed erosion control line (ECL).

Prior to the beach nourishment project, the owner of the waterfront land enjoyed potential rights to any additional land from accretions - should the beach grow seaward. …

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