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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 118767
Experience:  JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
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How close to the gh tide line can the occupants of a

Customer Question

How close to the high tide line can the occupants of a condominium build a pier. The pier is located on the bay side in the central area of Fort Myers Beach. The end of the pier extends passed the high tide line. The builders state that the pier existed in the past and was destroyed by high surf a few years ago. They have now quickly rebuilt it in one day, possibly to avoid notice. It appears that it was constructed without a city permit. Are they in violation of any federal or Florida state laws by limiting access to the high tide line
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.
First, they needed a permit to rebuild the pier. However, under FL laws, they refer to custom and use of the beaches when deciding on access. See: City of Daytona Beach v. Tona-Rama, Inc., 294 So. 2d 73 (Fla. 1974). The court held that customary use is the means by which the public can establish rights to utilize the dry sand areas of Florida beaches for traditional recreational uses. They cannot build beyond the high tide line, that would violate the public use and access doctrine regarding the land between the low tide and high tide mark being public land.
The Florida State Constitution states, in pertinent part, that: "[t]he title to lands under navigable waters, within the boundaries of the state, which have not been alienated, including beaches below mean high water lines, is held by the state, by virtue of its sovereignty, in trust for all the people. Sale of such lands may be authorized by law, but only when in the public interest. Private use of portions of such lands may be authorized by law, but only when not contrary to the public interest." See: FLA. CONST. art. X, § 11.
FS 161.053(1)(a) states that, "the beaches in this state and the coastal barrier dunes adjacent to such beaches . . . represent one of the most valuable natural resources of Florida and . . . it is in the public interest to preserve and protect them from imprudent construction which can jeopardize the stability of the beach-dune system, accelerate erosion, provide inadequate protection to upland structures, endanger adjacent properties, or interfere with public beach access..."
So your first step is filing a complaint to the FL Attorney General and Department of Natural Resources as they have to investigate and survey the area to make the proper determinations.