Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is in the middle of a controversy over public access to the famed beaches of the Destin, Fla., area, fully reported by a local newspaper complete with video of the scenery.
Beachfront property owners like Huckabee paid a nominal sum (about $400) to take control of beach property down to the water line. Law enforcement has been enforcing those property lines by moving would-be beach users down from sand to the water line. The land is hugely valuable — $1.8 million for some lots with beachfront backyards such as Huckabee’s The article notes that Huckabee complains about the property taxes on his $3 million-plus home in Santa Rosa.
A government effort is underway to restore public access to the beaches. This entails the question of what that land is worth. It can’t be developed, but it is of course valuable.
That means when former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks of the exorbitant taxes he’s paying for the right to own Beach Mountain Road property all the way to the mean high water line, he neglects to mention those taxes are no higher than they would have been if he hadn’t paid $400 in 2012 for the quiet title that extended his backyard.
So if the beach is worth nothing, what’s to prevent Walton County from negotiating with selected property owners to obtain public beach through eminent domain? Employing that strategy, while an expensive one, might stave off what will no doubt be a protracted legal battle to claim all 26 miles of county coastline as public through a declaration of customary use.
This fight seems likely to be in progress for a while.