Court directed to rule on Open Beaches Act

HOUSTON (AP) - A split panel of a federal appeals court is directing the Texas Supreme Court to rule whether it's proper for state authorities to order removal of homes that have wound up on public beaches due to storms and erosion.

Such homes may be violating the Texas Open Beaches Act.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2-1 ruling -- quote -- "The state Supreme Court appears to have avoided ruling on these issues whose resolution is vital to the rights of thousands of Texas beachfront property owner."

The decision came on a lawsuit filed by a California-based property rights organization on behalf of a San Diego woman whose two rental properties along the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston County ended up part of the beach after Hurricane Rita in September 2005, five months after she bought them.

The 50-year-old Open Beaches Act, designed to keep Texas beaches open to the public, prohibits structures on the beach roughly between the water line and the vegetation line.

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