Washington County, Rhode Island; July 07, 2023: The Rhode Island Association of Coastal Taxpayers (RIACT) filed a lawsuit today challenging a law that takes private property from every coastal property owner in the state and gives it to the public for beach use

“The government can’t take private property without paying for it, and this basic principle applies even when the government pursues popular goals, like public access,” said J. David Breemer, a senior attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation. “Rhode Island’s new beach expansion law is clearly unconstitutional as a taking of private property.”

The law, pushed by coastal activists, moves the public beach inland, and onto private coastal property, along the entire state shoreline.

Historically, the “mean high tide line” served as the boundary between the public beach area and private property in Rhode Island. But the new law, passed in June 2023, moves the boundary to 10 feet inland of the seaweed line, giving the public an extra strip of land at the expense of private property owners.

Coastal landowners in Rhode Island are now forced to pay taxes on property frequented by the public, who can enter, occupy, and use their private shoreland whenever they wish.

Represented free of charge by Pacific Legal Foundation, RIACT filed a federal lawsuit to defend their private property rights.

The case is Rhode Island Association of Coastal Taxpayers v. Jeffrey Willis, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island.


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Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit law firm that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 18 wins of 20 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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