Federal Lawsuit Accuses Texas Land Commissioner of Trampling Personal House Rights

Entry to sunlight, surf, and sand drew long-time Texan and surfer Charles Sheffield to Surfside Beach on the Texas Gulf Coast exactly where he ordered household house for own use and rental profits. 

Having said that, Sheffield is now crying foul more than a current buy from the Texas Common Land Office (GLO) that would make portions of his beachfront property a public beach.

Pursuing injury wrought by Hurricane Laura and Tropical Storm Beta in 2020, GLO performed surveys of the Texas coastline previous January, and in March 2021 Commissioner George P. Bush issued a new buy declaring that the “landward boundary of the community beach” now extends “to a line 200 ft inland” for a two-yr period of time.

Regretably for Sheffield and Surfside Seaside resident Merry Porter, the new line encroaches on their beachfront properties and in some instances passes by way of their household buildings, prompting a federal lawsuit with the U.S. District Court docket for the Southern District of Texas.

“The point out simply cannot instantly just redraw general public seaside home boundaries so as to change a personal household ton into an spot open up for community use,” mentioned J. David Breemer, a senior lawyer at Pacific Legal Foundation, which submitted the lawsuit. 

The Texan Tumbler

In accordance to Jeffrey McCoy, also representing Sheffield and Porter in the situation, the newly declared general public beach boundaries will infringe on the private residence rights of these citizens.

“Under this purchase, and under the state legislation governing community beaches, the residence house owners could not get rid of any individual from the place right away all over the residence, and they could not transform these households,” McCoy spelled out to The Texan.

McCoy mentioned that there experienced been no community remark time period or notification of a potential alter prior to the March 29 purchase from GLO, and his shoppers had been caught by surprise.

“Under the new orders, these entrepreneurs simply cannot even put up indications indicating this is personal residence, and if someone is injured while on the houses it could end result in opening homeowners up to legal responsibility.”

The function of the 1959 Texas Open up Beach locations Act is to promise free public obtain to beach locations together the Gulf of Mexico, and the legislation responsibilities the GLO with checking and defending state beaches in addition to making certain community access. Beneath the statute, the state essentially owns the land extending from the “line of necessarily mean minimal tide to the line of vegetation (LOV) bordering on the Gulf of Mexico.”

The act prohibits building on public beaches and restrictions rebuilding or reworking of properties impacted by storms, and along with the buy GLO released a memo stating that though selected repairs for homes in just the new boundaries would be permitted, house owners could not “repair, change, or construct a slab of concrete, fibercrete, or other impervious product,” and could not “construct a area addition or improve the measurement of the structure’s footprint.”

The GLO memo notes that the short term new boundaries will give the seashore and purely natural line of vegetation time to get well. The agency also notes that the buy features a a few-yr suspension of the capability for the commissioner to ask for that the Texas Legal professional General’s Business office file a fit to eliminate any household from the community seashore. 

Nonetheless, the Pacific Legal Foundation filing references a 2012 Texas Supreme Court selection in Severance v. Patterson ruling that the point out can’t get private property for a general public seaside when a storm moves the LOV. Rather, the state have to to start with confirm there is a general public appropriate to the property in a court docket of legislation or obtain the residence.

Breemer and McCoy say the most current ruling violates precedent set in Severance v. Patterson. Both equally Bush and Texas Attorney Basic Ken Paxton have been named defendants in the circumstance.

“This unlawful and unconstitutional shift offends the legal rights of Texans like Sheffield and Porter to freely use, delight in, and secure their beachfront houses,” said Breemer. “The land commissioner must abandon this unlawful attempt to seize personal coastal home for general public use with no just compensation, thanks method, or respect for Texas legislation.”