HOLMES BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) — Last month some residents living along 78th Street in Holmes Beach were surprised to find the beach access they’d been using for years was blocked off.
Neighbors told 8 On Your Side in April that two private homeowners at the end of the street posted “private property” and “keep out” signs in front of the walkway that residents and visitors have used for decades. They tried contacting city officials for help with no luck. Last month the city’s mayor described the issue as a “private property dispute.”
“We just don’t understand why this happened and we are not able to get the help and support from the local governments like the city of Holmes Beach to give us the access that has been well documented,” said 78th Street resident Allen Kluz. “Unfortunately, because there is no support that we are getting from the city, we have pursued our own legal action. We have retained a lawyer to really help drive this process of getting us our legal rights back to the beach access.”
The lawsuit against the property owners who erected the signs and blocked off the beach access was filed in Manatee County Friday, May 20. The suit alleges the homeowners at the end of the street falsely claimed “exclusive ownership of the beach access” and deprived the other property owners and the public access to the Gulf of Mexico.
The lawsuit also highlights a public beach access site where the Florida Department of Environmental Protection lists 78th Street as have “full access” for the public.
A spokesperson told 8 On Your Side “DEP has an ongoing investigation into these claims.”
8 On Your Side also spoke with one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit who owns a home a few houses from the longtime access point.
“Quite honestly, I didn’t understand it,” John Carmon said. “That path is located on the Florida beach access map as a public beach access. We understood that from the time we purchased the home 12 years ago.”
Carmon explained the blocked off access impacts his family greatly. His wife, who is suffering from health issues and is on oxygen around the clock, is unable to access the sand. He said her mobility isn’t what it used to be.
“She could certainly go to the beach with her portable oxygen, you know, where we are. This was very troubling for us to not be able to have that,” said Carmon. “It was a whole way of life for our family. It was the whole reason we purchased the property.”
An attorney for one of the defendants listed in the lawsuit told 8 On Your Side Monday he cannot comment at this time because his clients have not yet been served a lawsuit.