Battle over public beach access has no end in sight

ST. PETE BEACH — A court fight over ownership of the white sand beach along the Gulf of Mexico could have a long-term impact on the public’s right to use that beach. St. Pete Beach and the Silver Sands condo complex have a trial date in 2020.

Court briefs filed by the city and the Silver Sands condominium over the past month indicate there is little chance of resolving the issue anytime soon.

The U.S. District Court in Tampa has set a trial date for March 2020, nearly a year and a half from now.

Between now and then, the parties must conduct discovery, file motions and enter into mediation no later than next September. If mediation fails, the trial will proceed.

At issue is the public’s right to use and traverse the white sand areas on the city’s beaches.

The problem arises when a property owner claims ownership of the beach all the way to the mean high water line.

The city lost a similar dispute in another case that ending up costing it nearly $2 million.

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