A good portion of Galveston Island has a seawall that somewhat protects its south side from the anger of the Gulf of Mexico. The first part of that seawall was completed about 1902 after the city had been inundated by the now-famous hurricane of 1900 and the rising waters that it brought.
However, there are several miles of the island where there is nothing but occasional sand dunes between dry land and the gulf, and when storms come and the gulf rises most or all of that land is flooded.
But if that isn't bad enough, storms as well as the natural action of the gulf cause natural erosion of those beaches.
And then there is the other quirk. Texas has always claimed that those beaches belong to the public. Access cannot be restricted. The beaches can't be subdivided and bought.
Through some cockamamie laws, however, for the past 50 years or so, the property just to the north of the public beach has been developed as residential lots. There are multi-millions of dollars worth of homes that have been built there. In fact, many of those homes are on the tax rolls for appraised values exceeding a million bucks.
People who built their homes close to the natural easement did so knowing that as the beach eroded, there could come a time when their homes would be sitting in the public right-of-way.
Meanwhile, the State of Texas and the city and county of Galveston spent millions upon millions over the years, pumping sand to rebuild the beaches where erosion had invaded them.
In fact, sometimes the city used public money to buy from the owners, houses that had ended up in the public right away. That, too, amounted to millions of dollars being used to pay back homeowners for the loss of their property, a loss that even a first grader could have anticipated would be inevitable at some point.
Recently, a property owner who owned several of those beachfront homes, claimed that since the public's beach was now sitting under her house and on her platted lots, she could fence the land off, creating her own private beach.
The Texas General Land Office disagreed. She filed suit, and now after being heard by the Texas Supreme Court, the court has sided with the plaintiff.
According to the Galveston County Daily News, "Texas Supreme Court (has) sent (its) opinion to a federal court in which it held that some West End property owners have rights superseding the Texas Open Beaches Act because the state did not revoke titles to that land when it joined the union in 1846."
So the silliness of letting people build where the public beaches would eventually move, is now biting the public in the back. At what point will there no longer be public beaches on that part of Galveston Island where there is no seawall? It could easily be soon.
BILL CHERRY, REALTORS
DALLAS - PARK CITIES
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