I was quite surprised to see the story in the Tribune about the fishing cabins along the Intracoastal canal. I’d forgotten about them since the days when I worked in the Senate for Babe Schwartz as committee counsel. The cabins, which we referred to a squatters’ shacks, were built by folks along the shoreline or on spoil islands. They became an issue because they were situated on state-owned land and many did not have adequate waste disposal facilities. And there were a lot of them.
The shacks, some of which, as you can see from the photo in the Tribune, were really quite nice, didn’t have a legitimate chain of title. The land office didn’t like the idea of people squatting on state land, and the cabins made the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers nervous, as they were subject to being destroyed in storms and becoming a navigation hazard. Another concern was that, since no one could legitimately claim ownership of the cabins or the land they were built on, dangerous disputes over possession could occur. We worked with the land office, then headed by Bob Armstrong, and came up with the idea of issuing permits that could be renewed annually for a fee. It was a sensible solution, and I’m gratified to see that it is still working some forty years later. The state got a little money out of it, but if a major storm ever hits the area, there is going to be one hell of a mess.