Does a ban on signs on the beach infringe on property rights?
Edward and DeLanie Goodwin, in partnership with the Pacific Legal Foundation, argue that it does, and have filed a lawsuit with Walden County, Florida.
Walden County recently banned all signs on private beach property—this includes “Private Property” and “No Trespassing” signs meant to denote property lines. For people like the Goodwins, whose private beach property is in close proximity to a public beach, the ban on signs means they can’t ward wandering beachgoers away from their property.
This likely isn’t an accident. Christina Martin, an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, told Sunshine State News that the county voted for the ban “with an eye to acquiring the dry-sand areas without paying owners for them.”
When government takes land for public use, it is required to provide just compensation to the property owners. By banning “private property” signs, the county gives the public access to private beaches without compensation.
Even with signs posted, the Goodwins have had strangers trespass on their land, setting up tents or leaving behind trash and pet waste. They’ve even had strangers walk up the beach and enter the Goodwins’s home.
This case illustrates how interconnected rights are, and how limiting citizens’ rights in one area can impact other rights. You can’t defend your property rights if you don’t have the free speech to communicate your property boundaries.
There are other intersections of rights, as well. Without the economic right to choose who you do business with, you couldn’t express your support or opposition for policies or companies through boycotts. Without the rights of association peaceful assembly, you couldn’t freely exercise your religion by visiting—or not visiting—houses of worship.
These are just a few examples. Check out the video below on a related question: is money speech?