By DOTTY NIST
Hearings are set for Aug. 14 in Walton County Circuit Court in connection with Walton County’s Complaint for Declaration of Recreational Customary Use.
With the court complaint, the county is seeking to affirm recreational customary use on all privately-owned beachfront parcels in Walton County.
Scheduled for hearing on Aug. 14 are motions for summary judgment filed by property owners in opposition to the county complaint. A motion for summary judgment calls for a court decision on a claim or claims without a trial being held. A summary judgment is granted if the party filing the motion shows that there is no genuine dispute of a fact or facts and that the party is entitled to a judgment by law.
Motions to be heard in court on Aug. 14 are on behalf of defendants identified as beachfront property owners in the Seagrove-area Jasmine Dunes and Sea Walk subdivisions.
According to the motions, the Jasmine Dunes and Sea Walk subdivisions were replattings of the Gulf Shore Manor subdivision, for which a plat was originally recorded in Walton County public records in 1925.
Also according to the motions, Jasmine Dunes and Sea Walk defendants’ beachfront property is identified on the Gulf Shore Manor plat as either “Gulf Shores Beach” or “Bathing beach.”
The motions reference a March 28, 1978, resolution approved by the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC), which is attached as an exhibit. The resolution reads, “All property lying between the Gulf of Mexico and Blocks 17, 18, 19, and 20 of Gulf Shore Manor Subdivision, including strip designated as ‘Gulf Shore Beach’ and a strip designated as ‘Bathing Beach’ according to the plat of Gulf Shore Manor recorded in Deed Book 63 at Page 603, records of Walton County Florida, be, and the same is hereby, renounced and disclaimed.”
The defendants argue that the resolution represents “an express and unequivocal waiver by Walton County” of any public right to the beaches depicted on the Gulf Shore Manor plat. They further maintain that it is “unequitable” for the county to assert that the resolution did not result in an abandonment of “all rights of the public in and to the Gulf Shore Manor Beaches,”—adding that Walton County’s declaration of customary use south of Blocks 17, 18, 19 and 20 of the Gulf Shore Manor plat is “improper.”
The Gulf Shore Manor subdivision is also the subject of a lawsuit filed by several land trusts claiming ownership of “remnant” and beach property within the subdivision. In that lawsuit, the land trust parties have been seeking quiet title and relief under the Florida Constitution and U.S. Constitution, the latter related in part to the county’s use of portions of the subject property over many years for public beach access, parking, and permitting of vending. That case is proceeding in Walton County Circuit Court, with a hearing having been held on June 10.
Regarding Walton County’s complaint for declaration of recreational customary use, a July 2 court order set a 90-day time frame within which the county is required to either file a more definite statement or an amended complaint specifying which exhibits presented as evidence apply to which parcels contained in the complaint.