Photo: Nick Tomecek/Daily News
Northwest Florida Roundup
Drawing a line in the sand
Walton County grapples with beach public access questions.
The rights of private property owners and those of the general public are clashing on the beaches of Walton County.
At issue is a the question of what constitutes “customary use” of the beaches and how far private property rights extend toward the mean high water line.
What makes this question particularly complex for Walton County is that some private properties on the Gulf are platted to the dune line, while Others extend to the mean high water line.
“This is definitely a hotbutton issue in Walton County,” says Walton County spokesman Louis Svehla. “You have one group that feels every single piece of dry sand should be open to the public. You have another group that feels that if they own it, no one should be able to set foot on it,” he says. “And you have another set of property owners who don’t mind if people use the dry sand portion as long as they abide by local ordinances governing litter and excessive noise.”
Sorting out the jumble of property rights and determining what constitutes customary use is a job that falls to the five Walton County commissioners. “It’s a very intricate discussion that has a lot of variations and segments to it,” says Svehla.
Walton commissioners have hired the Tallahassee law firm Theriaque & Spain to determine how much of the county’s 26 miles of beach should be open to full access by the public.
The law firm is researching the legal and historical definitions of “customary use” and is expected to present commissioners a report in the fall.
Innovation: Nano Advancements
Tallahassee startup Full- ScaleNANO has developed software that automates the processing of nanomaterials viewed under an electron microscope.
For research scientists, measuring and characterizing nanomaterials is a slow, manual process. Full- ScaleNANO’s software, Nano- Met, accelerates the job by taking thousands of measurements, as well as “seeing” every individual pixel in an electron microscope and identifying the nanomaterials, says CEO and co-founder Jeffrey Whalen. The company recently received the Innovation Award at the TechConnect World Innovator Conference and Expo in Washington, D. C., in late spring.
APALACHICOLA — Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have joined Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions of Alabama in writing a letter to congressional leaders advocating creation of an interstate compact to more equitably allocate water from the Apalachicola River, which also runs through Georgia. The river recently was named the “most endangered” river in the U.S. by a national environmental group.
BAY COUNTY — Recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show the average weekly wage for a federal employee in Bay County is $1,499, while a private-sector employee’s average weekly wage is $683.
DESTIN — Walton County officials have approved the start of the second phase of HarborWalk Village. Plans call for a nine-story hotel and condominium, 25,000 square feet of retail space and a parking deck. The new residential and retail complex will be situated on nine acres along Harbor Boulevard.
PENSACOLA — The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security have designated the University of West Florida as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education through the academic year 2021-22. Quint and Rishy Studer have received approval from the city for a 57,000-sq.-ft., $14.3-million office building in downtown Pensacola.
PERRY — The final phase of the city’s downtown revitalization is under way. The project, which broke ground in late spring, includes construction of a lake, an amphitheater, a 3,000-sq.- ft. Pavilion, a half-mile-long walking trail and more than 6,700 plants and trees in Rosehead Park.
SHALIMAR — Torch Technologies, which specializes in research, development, testing and evaluation of weapons systems for the military, will add some 170 jobs as a result of winning a four-year, $186-million contact.
TAYLOR COUNTY — Work crews have completed construction of Duke Energy’s 5-megawatt solar farm near Perry. The Perry Solar Facility, on 22 acres, is designed to hold about 22,000 solar panels. The solar farm is Duke Energy’s second in a longterm plan to install 500 megawatts of solar power in Florida by 2024.
Roger Poitras is the new chief strategy officer for Pensacolabased Sacred Heart Health System. Poitras’ previous role was heading Gulf Coast Medical Group, a regional association of health care providers affiliated with Sacred Heart.
Paige Carter-Smith is the new executive director of the Tallahassee Downtown Improvement Authority. Carter-Smith owns Governance Services, a Tallahassee firm that specializes in governmental consulting and strategic planning.