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Mike Peer

Thoughts on Gov. Scotts private Beaches for personal gain?

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Marking private property on the beach

WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - How State Bill 631 will affect the Florida coast has been a hot topic since the Governor signed the bill earlier this year.

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The new state bill reversing Walton County's customary land use law will go in effect July first.

Now, the question is how to inform the public of what is private property.

"The bill really gives a path forward on how counties can go forward on creating customary use ordinances. Ours is voided by this because it doesn't follow those rules that they are putting in place. This takes it back to how it was," Louis Svehla with Walton County said.

Now that the public's access to the beach will be limited, Walton County Commissioners decided to modify their beach and waterways ordinance as it pertains to marking private property on the beach.

"A lot of it had to do with enforcement, what the Sheriff needed to do to enforce property boundaries of the property owner wanted to put it out there. Discussion about what those signs will look like. Do they need to come in, can they stay out? How does it affect our endangered species?" Svehla explained. "Really it was a lot of stuff having to do with the health of the beach, the aesthetics of the beach, the safety of the beach. What can we do really to work for as many people as we can?"

County commissioners decided signs can be no larger than 18 by 24 inches and must be of a certain material and colors.

"They did change the ordinance to allow for permanent signage at the toe of the dune, so any signage that is put there can be left 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Svehla said, "and the allowance for signs on the sandy portion of the beach, same thing, 18 by 24 inches but those must come in every single night. Really that is a part of our 'Leave No Trace' ordinance as well as bringing in everything off the beach we can."

They also established that owners can only place a sign every 250 feet. If their property is less than 250 feet, they can post at the corner of each property boundary.

"This is not something that requires you to put signs out. This is something that says you have the ability, you have the right if you have private property. Here's what they need to look like, here are the rules," Svehla said.

While many residents are now worried about a beach littered with signs, officials said they are just adhering to the new law.

"Our hope is we don't see a lot of that. Most properties here, as long as you're going out to recreationally what we do on beaches, laying on towels, putting up an umbrella, sitting on a chair, playing with your kids, a lot of times that's not an issue for most property owners," Svehla expressed.

The county's new ordinance rules will go in effect the same day as the states new law, July 1st.

Officials said although this is a setback for their fight to keep the beaches open for public use, they said they're determined to re-establish their customary use ordinance through a judicial ruling.

They said the next step is to set a public hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for the beginning of September.

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