Neighbors clash over beach access path

Neighbors clash over beach access path
Signs posted at the end of 78th Street in Holmes Beach block a path to the beach that was previously open to the public. - Bob Alexander | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – A battle is brewing on 78th Street between a beachfront property owner and neighbors insisting on using a longstanding beach access.

The owners of the beachfront home at 101 78th St., Bryce Raub and Travis Resmond, blocked off public access to a beach path that runs along the edge of their property in mid-April, without notice to neighboring property owners, neighbors say. The two have owned the property since 2014, according to Manatee County Property Appraiser’s records.

The act caused an uproar with neighbors who say they have used the path to access the Gulf of Mexico for years without an issue.

In an email to Mayor Judy Titsworth, Raub said he’d been informed by surveyor James Clements, whom he hired in March, that there is no public beach access between his property and the adjacent lots.

Despite there having been an easement on the property previously, Titsworth said that even if the easement still existed, issues with the language wouldn’t grant the public use of the path for beach access.

In an April 22 talk with The Sun, Titsworth said she’d had city attorney Erica Augello look into the possibility of a public access path across the private property and had bad news for 78th Street residents. While an easement was noted as existing on the property in records prior to 2014, it is not listed on the current deed for the property at 101 78th St. In addition to the disappearance of the easement note on the deed and the fact that there are no easement documents recorded, Titsworth said the easement noted on prior documents was for a nonexclusive easement.

The problem with easements, she said, is that they have to state who the easement benefits. In this case, the easement didn’t state that it benefited the public.

With the property owners not blocking their neighbors from accessing the beach, just blocking the one path to the beach, Titsworth said she’s unsure of how a legal challenge would play out for neighbors. And since the dispute concerns private property, she said there’s very little the city can do, despite being contacted by neighbors and Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge to urge city leaders to take action.

The mayor said she instructed city staff to put up a sign at the closed path noting that no beach access is allowed. A Holmes Beach police officer also was stationed at the end of the street on the weekend of April 22-24 to prevent public access to the path.

If the matter is resolved in the neighbors’ favor, Titsworth said she’d be happy to have the sign placed by city staff removed. Other signs at the path, including ones advising against trespassing, were not installed by city staff.

Neighbors of the beachfront property argue that not only should the easement on the property recorded in earlier deeds give them a right to use the path but that they should also have a right to use it due to the number of years it has been used for beach access.

In addition to writing to city and county leaders, some 78th Street residents have taken to social media to express their frustration with the issue.

Hilary Dravis posted on social media about her father, Vinny, who lived on 78th Street for more than 40 years and used the path to access the beach daily. She said he even purchased a bench from the city to place at the end of the path on the beach for others to enjoy. Dravis said her father would be saddened to see the path closed to the public.