Amendment Filed To Protect Beach Property Owners

Lawmakers will discuss a proposed constitutional amendment tomorrow that deals with the boundaries of public beaches. The measure is in response to a 2010 Texas Supreme Court ruling that stated that private property rights superseded the state's claim to the property as part of the open beaches act.


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Dallas Democratic Rep. Harold Dutton filed an amendment to be added to the Texas Constitution that clearly defines the boundaries of public beaches and holds them in a public trust.

In January, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of beach front property owners in Surfside, who were not allowed to make repairs or extend utilities to houses that the General Land Office determined were in the public right of way, as a result of beach erosion.

Terri Hall heads Texas TURF, an organization that fights to protect property rights.

“When somebody builds a home and invests money on a beach that abuts a public beach, usually it’s more of a catastrophic event that moves the beach-line so dramatically, that it may cut into our public beach. But now it might touch or infringe upon private property in order the public beach the same size it was prior to these natural disasters.”

The Texas Supreme Court ruled that the Open Beaches Act did not apply in cases where an event like a storm, caused the erosion that placed a house on the public beach. While the proposed legislation would not be affected by future court challenges, should the amendment be added to the Texas Constitution, Hall still has a problem with the measure:

“I think its crazy to expect a Texas landowner to tear down their house that they’ve put on private property that abuts a public beach, simply because of an event that happened outside their control.”

She’s worried that if the Texas General Land Office thinks the line should roll with the shoreline, then there won’t be any private property.

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson was not available to comment on the proposed amendment, which will be the topic of discussion at a land and resource management committee meeting.

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