Palm Beach County residents fear loss of favorite beach after new access law

Oceantree condominium on Singer Islands marks its beach with signs on July 20, 2018.

Some Singer Island residents fear they are losing access to their favorite beach following a new law that requires judicial approval to keep a privately-owned swath of sand open to the public.

The statute, which went into effect July 1, says local governments must get a judge’s approval to enforce a rare “customary use” law that refers to the general right of the public to use dry sand areas in Florida for recreation.

Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, said it simply spells out a process for municipalities to follow to keep beaches open to the public rather than making up their own rules when a private beach owner wants to restrict access.

But the law has caused widespread confusion and angst, forcing Gov. Rick Scott to issue an executive order urging state attorneys “to protect Floridians’ constitutional rights to beach access” and doing one thing opponents feared most — emboldening private beach owners to cut off the public.

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Nancy Sweeney, who owns a condominium on the west side of Singer Island’s Ocean Drive, said since 1996 she has used a well-worn path between Marriott’s Oceana Palms hotel and the under-construction Amrit Ocean Resort to get to the beach.

Property records show there is a 99-year lease on a 7.5-foot-wide easement for public beach access, but whether the beach is open to the public once people get there is less clear.

“One of my neighbors went down…READ THE REST OF THE STORY AT MYPALMBEACHPOST.COM and find out which Palm Beach County beach is already heavily patrolled to keep the public from planting their umbrellas in the sand. 

Private beach owners can restrict access to sand landward of the mean high tide line, while the public has access to “wet” sand seaward of the mean high tide line. This has always been the case in Florida, but a new law is bringing more attention to the private vs. public beach issue.