By DOTTY NIST
A bill was recently filed in the Florida House of Representatives that, if becoming law, would repeal the customary use portion of House Bill (HB) 631.
HB 631’s customary use provisions took effect on July 1, 2018, as Section 163.035, Florida Statutes, negating Walton County’s customary use beach ordinance and setting forth a court process for the use of local governments in order to affirm a public right of customary recreational use of the beach on privately-owned property.
Entitled “Real Property,” the repeal bill, HB 6063, was filed on Jan. 6 by State Representative Evan Jenne (D-Dania Beach). Jenne represents part of Broward County. The bill simply states, “Section 163.035, Florida Statutes is repealed.” If becoming law, the measure would go into effect on July 1, 2020.
While after passage of HB 631 the bill’s customary use provisions had become its most-discussed portion, HB 631 had dealt mainly with other matters, including real property ownership and property owners’ ability to recover property from a person who had gained possession by means such as forcible or unlawful entry. In its originally-filed version, HB 631’s 14+ pages had included only the following few lines (Section 10) related to customary use: “Judicial determination; customary use.–A common law claim of customary use for the public use of private property shall only be determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, on a parcel-by-parcel basis, and by clear and convincing evidence.”
Section 10 had been expanded to several pages by the time HB 631 got final approval by the Florida House of Representatives in early March 2018.
HB 6063, the repeal bill, was joined on Jan. 10 by companion Senate Bill, (SB) 1680.
Identical to HB 6063, SB 1680 was filed by Senator Lori Berman (D-Delray Beach), who represents part of Palm Beach County.
The filing of companion repeal bills puts the HB 631 repeal effort for the 2020 session a step ahead of that of the 2019 session, which had consisted of SB 54, a similar repeal bill filed by Senator Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg). After being referred to several Senate committees, HB 54 had failed to come up for committee or floor votes. There had been no companion House bill. The measure was indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration, finally dying in the Judiciary Committee in May 2019.
Meanwhile, Walton County’s Complaint for Declaration of Recreational Customary Use, a court filing in line with Section 163.035’s requirements for affirmation of recreational customary use, remains in Walton County Circuit Court following its filing over a year ago. Motions to dismiss the case are yet to be heard as a result of delays related to required notification of beachfront property owners.
A case management conference has been scheduled on the county complaint for 1:30 p.m. on March 2 at the Walton County Courthouse.