Flagler County Attorney Al Hadeed and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Jason Harrah told the Flagler Beach City Commission Thursday evening that the now two-decade-old plan to rebuild 2.6 miles of beach south of the pier is set to begin in June.
There is heightened urgency to get the project done, not only because the coastline sits exposed and vulnerable to any storm, but because now even so-called sunny-day events are affecting the dunes. The ocean carved out a colossal amount of sand from the dunes below and just north of the Flagler Beach pier in the last few months. There’s been a lot of speculation about why the carve-out happened, with unusual tides getting the blame, but it’s been just that: speculation.
As always with this project, now two years late, there were caveats.
For one, a single property owner, Cynthia D’Angiolini, has yet to sign an easement that would allow the Corps to work on her side of the property. The county had previously indicated that eminent domain proceedings would begin against her if she still held out. There are no such proceedings in Flagler Circuit Court yet, but Hadeed is hopeful the matter will be resolved without forcing the county to go to court.
Hadeed told commissioners that all land certifications–meaning the securing of easements–are expected to be completed by the end of December, including that of the last hold-out. The designs of the project is to be completed by February. The renourishment is to be started in June, taking sand from a borrow pit 11 miles offshore. The county is having to apply for additional permitting for sand from that borrow pit, because the amount of sand required for the project has more than doubled, to 1.33 million cubic yards, from 500,000 cubic yards when initially planned. That’s a reflection of the continuing severity of the erosion on the coast.
Hadeed could not detail the legal proceedings with the hold-out. “Now we’re in a process under the Florida Statutes and procedures that do not permit me to talk about the specifics of that particular matter,” he said, “but I can tell you this: I can tell you that we are proceeding to take all the steps we need to take in conjunction with all of our partners to procure those easements by the project deadline date, which is the end of this calendar year.”
The project will not alleviate the sand loss north of the pier. But it will renourish everything between South 6th and South 28th Street, including the area of South 13th, which has been carved out like the area north of the pier. See the picture above. County government is also planning a beach-renourishment project of its own there, and south of the Corps’ limit (to the Volusia County line).
There were other complications. Two years ago the Fifth District Court of Appeal, whose decisions are controlling law in Flagler County, denied Brevard County’s authority to conduct a beach-renourishment project–not because it wasn’t needed: the court recognized that it was, and still is. But because of the way the county went about securing and defining its easements.
The 2020 decision addressed an Army Corps of Engineers project almost identical to Flagler’s. Brevard’s project was 7.8 miles instead of 2.6, with periodic renourishments slated every three years instead of every 10 or 11, for at least 50 years. Five property owners held out in Brevard. The county filed eminent domain proceedings against them in 2018. But it had overreached when it defined what portion of the beach it needed for the project, and had erroneously included the reconstructed dunes in the portion of the beach that the public may use, even though it’s privately owned.
In order to receive funding from the Corps, the “open sandy beach” portion of each parcel is required to be publicly accessible. That doesn’t mean that the dunes themselves need to be publicly accessible, or considered part of the publicly accessible beach. That confusion cost Brevard County its case against the hold-outs. “The County’s Petition was defective because the legal descriptions provided two potential easement boundaries, rendering them unclear,” the appellate court ruled.
It also ruled: “We find that there is competent substantial evidence in support of the trial court’s finding that there was a reasonable necessity to take easements with western boundaries at the 14-foot elevation contour line.” But “while the Corps required only the continued public use on shores, the County sought an unrestricted public use element on the entire easement area. Even the witnesses for the County recognized that the County sought a greater public use than was required by the Corps.”
In Hadeed’s words, Brevard property owners “were giving up their rights to control their property, because it was making it a quote, public beach for anyone and everyone. And the appellate court said no, that is not valid.” In Florida, the government can only take the absolute minimum of a property to accomplish its project. Hadeed was “very concerned this was going to torpedo our case.”
So Flagler County took two steps to stay on the legal side of that ruling. First, the County Commission approved a resolution defining exactly where the boundaries of the easements are, as opposed to the publicly accessible beach, and also defined what the county will not do, to reassure property owners that there was to be no infringement on their property, or on their property rights. The dunes would remain theirs, and the public would have no right of access across the dunes.
The second step was with the Corps: “Mostly recently, the Army Corps of Engineers allowed us to revise the language of the Army Corps easement form, the standard form for this particular situation that we have with this owner,” Hadeed said. The wording now reflects that of the county’s resolution as an added assurance to property owners. The attorney described it as “a very significant milestone.”
“All we needed,” Hadeed said, “was the right of access to their property to install the sand, install the vegetation, monitor it, come back and repair it when there’s a major storm when there’s a declarant when there’s a declared storm, or in a periodic renourishment, which is you know, is scheduled in our program to occur about once every 11 years.”
In essence, the property owners can still tell people who trespass that they are trespassing, when they are illegally using the dunes to cross down to the beach. The customary public use remains. But it does so where the dunes flatten out, where the beach is the beach, even though that portion of the sands also often belongs to private property owners.
Next was the need to increase needed sands to the 1.33 million cubic yard. “We’ve experienced a lot of erosion. It’s not just this erosion that occurred in August or July or recently. We have been experiencing erosion for quite a bit of time, a lot of sand loss,” Hadeed said. In an interview today, he said: “We have no defenses right now. We are so vulnerable to the effects of any significant storm.”
I say tell the damn holdouts to pay for their own beach refurbishment, or sell and get the hell out of FLAGLER BEACH.
GOD BLESS US ALL, Cant tell mother nature what to do.
GOD BLESS US ALL? Really? After that post. Please.
I’m glad that a schedule for the dune replenishment is on its way.
But doing this during hurricane season?
If other peoples’ pproperties suffer as a result of one lot owner’s “hold out”. they should consider filing a civi suit against that lot owner for damages.
jOE sTOLFI says
Quite the Quagmire .
Am I the only one still bothered by the wording
of a “named storm” . Without a named storm,
all the sand could wash out and there would be
no replacement by the Corps of Engineers .
NANCY SKADDEN says
Is there any validity that the sand used to refurbish the beach was the not best option for use with coquina?
James Mejuto says
Two years in the making and stalling by one owner. Eminent domain should be exercised in order to get the needed work begun.
I don’t know where FlaglerLive writers of this piece got the idea that a section of the dunes and beach is private property. There
is no private property where beaches are concerned . . . they belong to everyone. You may own the steps leading to the beach but you don’t own the dunes nor the beach . . . it’s all public property !
Please take a look at the county parcel map before making stupid statements. A quick count shows 82 privately owned parcels on the east side of A1A between 20th North and 20th South with the remaining parcels belonging to the city. The owners of these parcels pay taxes on the land just as any other property owner does, or should.
Your ridiculous statement that “You may own the steps leading to the beach but you don’t own the dunes nor the beach . . . it’s all public property !” is not only poor grammar, it is totally absurd. How does one gain the right to build private steps on public property – please, stop and think about that for a moment.
Lordy I wish people would educate themselves prior to flapping their jaws.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Call Ron De Santis…Greatest governer Fl ever had, He will fix this Flagler Clusterfuck…fools leading fools its the Flagler way! Ya know what… Im gonna contact him my self, to hell with all these local yoakals!
Yeah, DeSantis will fix it. Call Trump after that idiot
Dennis you have obviously limited your views via the blinders you wear that were meant for a horse –“greatest …. ever” come now
Concerned Citizen says
A lot of hate for property that isn’t yours to hate on.
These folks got this property however big or small because it came with the purchase of the property they bought with their money. It just happens to be on the beach which makes it high profile.
Imagine you have a really nice house on A1A or South Central even. Imagine you take really nice care of your yard. And the County comes in and says we are taking most of your yard past the right of way. I bet you’d be upset. I bet you’d put up a fight. But somehow because someone has a little bit of beach property y’all get up in arms and have the attitude of cooperate or else. LOL
Beach replenishment is only a temporary solution at best. In your haste to be angry at these folks don’t forget what just happened to a good stretch of Beach by the pier. And that was from a no named event.
Even more laughable is the money being spent to dig up sand from the ocean that’s going to just reclaim it again.
The potential, ultimate futility of the effort aside, Concerned Citizen’s analogy is incorrect. There is no “taking” on the table. There certainly is no yard. There is a request for an easement to dump sand on a dune remnant–so called, because the dunes were there but have eroded over time. The Army Corps would only rebuild what was there, and periodically rebuild it again, never infringing on the property owner’s right to that property, which can’t be built on anyway. The “cooperate or else” rhetoric is also misplaced. The project cannot go ahead without the easement secured, so in effect the one property owner is holding hostage 2.6 miles of beach protection. Futile as it may be, the Corps projects a half century of extended life for A1A and properties alongside it. A more apt analogy is giving a bad heart a pacemaker, extending a person’s life potentially by a decade or two. The end is still inevitable. Arguing against the extension–as some undoubtedly do–is not tenable.
Personally, as a non-resident, I’m tired of wasting tax dollars. It’s a futile attempt to control nature.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Rumor has it that Hadeed is going to retire in December so he possibly won’t be around to answer any questions or play quasi engineer with the save our Flagler Beach project like he is now. ( He almost never takes the county’s side in any court proceeding either and does nothing involving trying to save our tax dollars on ( mostly) frivolous litigation)
He most likely will be long gone when the ‘sand hits the fan’. I pray our beaches are saved – I really do; Flagler Beach is the perl of our county, but please let’s count on Hadeed’s assumptions or words as he will probably be ‘gone with the wind’ next June and his parting words most likely will be ” Frankly folks I don’t give a damn”.
James Mejuto says
There is no “saving the beach” at Flagler nor any beach, anywhere as long as climate change is not taken seriously.
The oceans will reclaim its own, while industries and automobiles continue to pollute. Just look at the daily beach
cam to see the enormous damage taking place at Flagler beach every day . . . It’s just a matter of time!
The town gov’t has to declare eminent domain regarding the renegade holdout, looking for more money. That’s what
it’s all about !
June is 10 month away. I wouldn’t call that “imminent”.
Yes, the “imminent” was a poor choice of words. The headline has been re-written to be more precise.