House Bill 631 Could Threaten Nassau County Beaches

This past legislative session the Florida House of Representatives passed House Bill 631, supported by our local State Representative Cord Byrd, in what turned out locally to be one of the most controversial bills of this legislative session. Supporters of the bill say it was designed to balance the interests of public use with those of beach-front private property owners. This bill seeks to affirm customary use on private property through judicial determination.

What is customary use? Customary use is a common law judicial doctrine that provides for the recreational use of privately owned land by the public if the recreational use has been “ancient, reasonable, without interruption, and free from dispute.” In short – it is grandfathered in.

Now, Nassau County officials are scrambling to combat this bill before it goes into effect in July of this year. This bill would permit beach-front property owners to restrict access to the public of dry sand, or sand that is above the mean high-tide. While Fernandina Beach city officials have assured residents that there doesn’t seem to be any conflict within the city, but the county is a different story. Peter’s Point has become ground zero for this legislation.

Local citizens have been collecting petitions by the thousands in order to put the break on implementation of the bill on July the 1st.

Mac Morris, a resident and local advocate in Fernandina Beach who has spearheaded a campaign with resident Lowell Hall to collect petitions spoke at a Beach Fact Finding Meeting held at the County Commission chambers yesterday, where they had collected nearly 2,000 petitions as of that time. Residents came to the podium and spoke about safety issues and concerns on how this will also affect inland waterways.

Joseph Zimmerman, previously served as a legislative aide in the Florida House asked if the Nassau County Economic Development Board had taken a position on this and it’s fiscal impact. Nassau County Attorney Mike Mullin said they hadn’t taken a public position yet that he was aware of. Joe also expressed concern with the effect on inland waterways that effect residents on the west side of Nassau County. He does not support the bill.

Mac Morris posted information on Facebook for anyone interested in getting their voice heard. He stated:

“Sign affidavits in front of a Notary. Bring your photo ID. Resident, non-resident of Nassau County, visitors, live here part time, own property here, children with a parent/guardian co-signature, can all sign an affidavit.

Free Notary services: upstairs at the City Clerks office, the County Manager’s office behind the bread store on A1A, most banks for their customers. Many real estate offices, lawyers have Notaries. Not sure about real estate offices and lawyers notarizing for free. For this, they might. Bring your photo ID.

There are two affidavit forms, one for people who have photos to submit. The photos help prove Customary Dry Sand Beach Use. You can turn in photos, copies of photos or email them in. If you say you will email them in, and don’t, your affidavit is invalid and can not be used. So send in those photos.

Email photos to

contact@nassaucountyfl.com

and say in the email the name you used on the affidavit you had Notarized. And tell them what day you turned in your affidavit.

Describe with all photos what beach they were taken on, what year, or what decade if they go way back. The more beach areas and years covered, the better.

Photo affidavit:
http://www.nassaucountyfl.com/…/Customary-Use-Affidavit…

Another affidavit is for those not submitting photos. For people who walk, run, sit, etc. on the beach.

General use affidavit, no photos.
http://www.nassaucountyfl.com/…/Customary-Use-Affidavit…

Only one affidavit per person.

If you can’t print your own affidavit at home, the Public Library has computers you may use to print out affidavits. I think 10 cents a page.

On the affidavits, be honest, say what beach areas you use. If you use all areas from Fort Clinch on the north end, to Amelia Island State Park on the south end, then say that. There are many beach areas, Fort Clinch, Main Beach, Jasmine, various City access points Sadler Road Seaside Park, the pier at Simmons Road, Peter’s Point, Scott Road, Burney Park, American Beach, Summer Beach, beaches inside Amelia Island Plantation boundaries, Amelia Island State Park. List from which beach or landmark, down to the end of where you use the dry sand beach.

Say from what point to what point of your island beach you use. Then say what activities you do on the beach. Sandcastles, shell or shark tooth hunting, surfing, stand up paddleboarding, running walking, sitting, reading, watching waves, sea turtle nest excavations, horseback riding, bicycling, kite flying, family time, bringing visitors, weddings, driving, fishing, sleeping, walking your dog, collecting trash, playing games, and so on.

You may drop off notarized affidavits at:

Redbones Dog Bakery – 809 South 8th Street

Kayak Amelia – 4 North 2nd Street just off Centre Street

Go Fish – 205 Centre Street. Open to 8pm.

County Manager’s Office
96135 Nassau Pl.
Suite 1
Yulee, FL 32097

We need more people/businesses to volunteer to be notarized affidavit drop off points all across the County. We also need more blank copies made and dropped off at those same drop off places.

I REPEAT, WE ARE NOT TRYING TO TAKE DEEDED LAND FROM ANYONE. OR TELL THEM WHAT TO DO ON THEIR PROPERTY. WHAT WE ARE WORKING ON IS TO PROTECT EVERYONE’S CUSTOMARY USE OF PUBLIC BEACH.”

Where do you stand on this? Nassau Politics wants to hear from you.

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One Reply to “House Bill 631 Could Threaten Nassau County Beaches”

  1. Betsie Huben

    The “threat” here is NOT to the beaches. The “threat” is to ALL OF US who use the beaches but do not own property along the beach. That includes local residents like myself who live on island, day users from all over the area and indeed GA, JAX MSA etc., and all the folks who come from far and wide to attend Concours, Shrimp Fest and Dickens. I would encourage anyone who knows anyone anywhere who loves our beach to get them an affidavit, complete it, get it notarized and get it in ASAP.

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