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Judge Rejects COVID-19 Property Rights Case

In Walton County, commissioners shut down seashores for the duration of the pandemic, such as personal ones. Property owners sued boasting they should have payment, but a choose claimed no.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In a dispute that started right after a Northwest Florida county temporarily shut beach locations early in the COVID-19 pandemic, a federal judge dominated against waterfront residence owners who contended that they really should acquire payment.

U.S. District Decide Robert Hinkle issued a 19-website page selection rejecting arguments that moves by the Walton County Fee to shut seashores in spring 2020 resulted in an unconstitutional “taking” of home. The lawsuit centered on men and women remaining not able to use regions of the seaside that they very own, relatively than on beach locations remaining shut to the general community.

Hinkle wrote that the plaintiffs were continue to in a position to use a lot of their residence and that the county fee was making use of its “police ability in a community-health crisis.”

“The base line is this. The Board of County Commissioners faced an escalating pandemic that posed an enormous menace to general public wellness,” Hinkle wrote in the final decision issued very last 7 days. “There was no way to know at that time how lots of men and women would die or come to be gravely sick and how best to lower the selection. Decisive motion appeared acceptable. In closing the beach locations, the county exhibited no animus towards these plaintiffs or any one else. Instead, the commissioners exercised their very best judgment, primarily based on the restricted know-how out there at the time, on how to preserve existence and overall health.”

Hinkle also pointed to the temporary character of the closure.

“The plaintiffs had entire, unfettered, exceptional obtain to some of the world’s most stunning seashores for 337 times for the duration of 2020. … That the plaintiffs’ access to portion of their residence was limited for 29 days in an work to safeguard the community was not an unconstitutional using,” he wrote.

Seashore closures ended up a intently watched challenge early in the pandemic, as visuals of crowds of beachgoers, which include spring breakers, flashed across the nation when the quantities of COVID-19 conditions started to soar.

Walton County, involving Panama Town and Destin, has found a building boom in recent decades, with multimillion-greenback residences popping up alongside its seashores.

Hinkle wrote that the Walton County Fee handed an ordinance on March 19, 2020, that prohibited members of the general public from accessing seashores and followed up April 2, 2020, with a revised ordinance that applied to all men and women. Beaches reopened May perhaps 1, 2020, and have remained open due to the fact then.

Underneath Florida legislation, privately owned beach house typically extends to a level known as the signify higher-h2o line. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit also cited house owners’ “littoral” legal rights, which give entry to the h2o.

In a courtroom document submitted last yr arguing for summary judgment, the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote that “for 29 times the plaintiffs had been prohibited, below threat of arrest, from getting into their personal non-public residence (i.e., their backyards).”

“This (April 2, 2020) ordinance was not developed to cut down transmission of COVID-19 on this non-public land but instead was created to make enforcement of the County’s general public-beach closure simpler,” the document stated. “Because Walton County deprived the plaintiffs of each strand in their bundle of house legal rights whilst the ordinance was in effect, the plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment as to all counts of the criticism.”

Source: News Company of Florida