Residents put up gates along Sunnyside beach

Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 6:39 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Things are changing and people are talking. A group of Sunnyside residents is pushing to make an already private beach less accessible to the public. But the question is, do they have the authority to?

Just ahead of the holiday weekend, a group of Sunnyside homeowners put up six gates along the beach after allegedly getting a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. But according to the Property Owner’s Association, that land doesn’t belong to them.

Located on the very west end of Panama City Beach, Sunnyside Park is one of the few beaches in Bay County that still looks virtually untouched. That was until last week.

Six gates now stand in access areas beside signs reminding people that it is private property.

“I got a call Thursday along with the rest of the family saying gates were being installed,” Crystal Murphy, great-granddaughter of Malcolm McCorquodale, said. “I drive over Friday morning so that everyone here could get very clear how we all felt about it.”

According to the Bay County Property Appraiser’s Website, Malcolm McCorquodale has owned that plat of beach for nearly a century.

“He didn’t want anyone that loved the beach as much as he did to be denied. And we feel the same way 100 years later,” Murphy said.

The gates were put in by the Sunnyside Beach Property Owners Association, a voluntary group formed by residents who have been paying taxes on that land for years.

But that doesn’t mean they own it, which is why law enforcement asked them to stop putting up the gates.

“A cease and desist was out on them and the sheriff’s office told them to stop,” Bay County Commissioner Doug Moore said.

The issue has become a lawsuit.

While the permit is still pending, residents aren’t allowed to put up any more gates and all of the standing gates are unlocked.

But county officials said they hope the gates come down soon.

“Ultimately where we come down as a commission is our support is for the customary use and for all the citizens to be able to use the beach,” Moore said.

NewsChannel 7 reached out to the lawyer representing the Sunnyside Beach Property Owners Association, who said things are up in the air because the deed is in Malcolm McCorquodale’s name, who passed away in the 50′s. But he’s going to leave it up to a judge to decide.

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