October 25, 2016

Special Report: Sea Level Rise and Florida

Impact: Roads

Lilly Rockwell | 7/8/2013

Hot Spot: St. Johns County

In this county just south of Jacksonville, a group of more than 30 property owners in an oceanfront subdivision called Summer Haven sued the county in 2005 for allegedly not properly maintaining a 1.6-mile stretch of “Old A1A,” their only access to their homes.

Since 1979, a series of storms, encroaching high tides and beach erosion has washed away parts of the road or encased it in hard-packed sand. About a third remains paved. The closest tide gauge, north of Summer Haven at Fernandina Beach, indicates the average sea level rose by nearly eight inches over the past 100  years.

The county spent $2.3 million primarily in FEMA funds on road repairs between 2000 and 2005 — about $230,000 per mile more than a typical county road. But after the county placed a moratorium on construction in Summer Haven, citing the road, the property owners sued, arguing the county has a duty to maintain access on the road, no matter how damaged it is.

The case was settled with most property owners earlier this year. The county agreed that it wouldn’t use the road as a reason to deny development and will repair and maintain the existing paved road. The county spent $970,000 fighting the lawsuit, says County Attorney Patrick McCormack. The Summer Haven property owners likely spent even more money fighting the  county.

“To me, litigation is one of the adaptation costs of sea level rise,” says Thomas Ruppert, a coastal planning specialist with Florida Sea Grant. “Local governments feel like they are between a rock and a hard spot. If you don’t let them build, they sue you.”

Tags: Environment, Sea Level Rise

Digital Access

Add digital to your current subscription, purchase a single digital issue, or start a new subscription to Florida Trend.

An overview of the features and articles in this month's issue of Florida Trend.


Florida Business News

Florida Trend Video Pick

Construction Crews Cheer on Patients
Construction Crews Cheer on Patients

While construction at Johns Hopkins All Children's research and education building is underway, workers help to cheer on patients going through infusion treatments with a dance party.

Earlier Videos | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

About voting in the November election, will you:

  • Vote by mail
  • Vote early in person
  • Will vote on election day, at my precinct
  • N/A - not voting

See Results

Ballot Box