Property Rights

Chmielewski v. City of St. Pete Beach

City cannot invite the public to make itself at home on private property

The Chmielewski family owns beachfront property in the City of St. Pete Beach, Florida. The city owns an arts center inland and adjacent to the Chmielewski’s home. After the city built a trail and encouraged the public to traverse the Chmielewski’s land to access their private beach, the family sued the city for effecting a taking without just compensation and for violating the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unwarranted seizures. The trial court awarded the Chmielewski’s damages for the seizure and the loss in value to their private beach and their home as a result of the taking. The City appealed to the Eleventh Circuit and PLF filed a brief supporting the family’s property rights. On May 16, 2018, the Eleventh Circuit upheld the trial court’s ruling, agreeing that the government cannot encourage the public to use private property without triggering constitutional protections requiring just compensation.

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