Texas Supreme Court: Private Properties Can Erode Public Beaches

TEXAS SUPREME COURT: PRIVATE PROPERTIES CAN ERODE PUBLIC BEACHES The state’s high court ruled today in favor of Californian Carol Severance, whose rent house on Kennedy Dr. in West Galveston found itself in front of the vegetation line after Hurricane Rita hit in 2006. The Texas Supreme Court ruled that the state can’t claim an easement on her property — but if the same topography had resulted over a longer period of time, the easement would be okay: “Texas law allows anyone to place a blanket on the beach, right up to the vegetation line, even if it’s an intrusion on the privacy of a seaside home. But in a split decision, the court found that the state’s policy of ‘rolling easements’ — the ever-shifting border between public and private land — does not apply when it’s moved by a storm. At the same time, the court held that policy is justifiable in cases of erosion, which is gradual.” [Houston Chronicle; decision; previously on Swamplot]

10 Comment

  • Any indication on how that effect structures that have fallen in the storm?

  • This is bizarre. Erosion and hurricanes are natural processes, neither of them unpredictable. Why does the general public benefit from one situation and not the other, or vice versa?

  • TheNiche: Too lazy to look up the arguments from each side, but I’d suspect it has to do with the suddenness of a hurricane vs. the slow gradual change from erosion.


  • Well yeah, that much is made explicitly clear in the article. What is unclear is why there should be a distinction when the law does not seem to provide for one.

  • The government should have had a sedimentologist in the room to define erosion. A hurricane causes erosion, the movement and redeposition of sediment. The court’s decision doesn’t change anything if it’s worded simply that changes in easement due to erosion are okay.

  • It is truly one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in a long time (and there have been some stinkers recently). The legislature needs to clarify the law in the next session. No one should have the right to exclude Texans from access to our beaches. That is what this law will do. It will also force taxpayers to buy out homeowners who built too close to the dunes to prevent issues with beach access and to maintain the vegetation line.

  • Just another effort to repeal the laws of nature. Don’t worry, nature will exact her revenge.

  • It may appear that the homeowner “won” this case, but read the law again.

    Texas law allows anyone to place a blanket on the beach, right up to the vegetation line, even if it’s an intrusion on the privacy of a seaside home.

    Basically, you can have a cookout under the house, park your car, spread out, whatever, and the homeowner has zero ability to do anything about it, as the home is within the vegetation boundary.

  • So, we can’t call it a “rolling easement” anymore, and she doesn’t have to tear down her house until the pilings are wet, because we feel bad about the hurricane thing?

  • Methinks there be too many armchair lawyers here, content to take Chronicle snippets at face value.

    Anybody here really in the know?