‘Get off my sand?’: Coastal homeowners sue over shoreline law, but state is prepared to fight – the Providence Journal

Lighthouse, Point Judith, Rhode Island (by Ed Schipul CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr).
Lighthouse, Point Judith, Rhode Island (by Ed Schipul CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr).

Coastal property owners have filed a federal lawsuit to overturn Rhode Island’s new shoreline-access law. The suit claims that the new legislation, which allows the public to use the shoreline up to 10 feet inland of the seaweed line, amounts to an unconstitutional taking under the Fifth Amendment. It comes as little surprise: Opponents of the new law, some whom are involved with the suit, had made clear that they intended to challenge it in court.

“While public beach access may be important to state legislators and officials, they may not simply redefine private shorelands as a ‘public beach’ by the stroke of a pen, consistent with the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment,” the complaint argues.

The suit was filed on Friday by Rhode Island Association of Coastal Taxpayers (RIACT), a relatively new organization that is described in the complaint as “a group of people who own beachfront property and hold private property rights along Rhode Island’s Atlantic coastline.”

The group includes people who do not have waterfront properties of their own but belong to fire districts or homeowners’ associations that own or control beachfront property, the complaint says.

Records from the Secretary of State’s Office show that the group was incorporated May 17, as the bill was making its way through the legislature.

The lawsuit lists J. David Breemer and Jeremy Talcott of the libertarian Pacific Legal Foundation as attorneys for the plaintiffs. The California-based foundation has represented property owners in shoreline access disputes in a number of other states, including Indiana, Texas and North Carolina. According to a news release, they are providing their services free of charge…


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