The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled in favor of a Florida landowner in a case that could have widespread ramifications for property developers challenging state and municipal land use policies, Atlantic Cities reported.
The 11-year-old case was filed by Coy Koontz, the now-deceased, longtime owner of a 15-acre wetlands plot outside Orlando.
In the 1990s, Koontz applied for a permit from the local water management district to develop a building, parking lot and retention pond on almost four acres of the property. Koontz’s son, also named Coy, is now the property owner.
Under Florida law, developers seeking to build on wetlands must get a special permit, and the agencies that issue them can require landowners to offset environmental impacts. Though Koontz floated a plan to conserve the remaining acres, the district wanted him to go further and develop only a single acre or pay workers to improve nearby public wetlands instead.
Instead, Koontz sued, claiming the rejection of the permit amounted to a violation of a Fifth Amendment clause banning the government from taking private property without proper compensation.
The 5-4 majority in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District sided with the developer, seemingly expanding the definition of the so-called Takings Clause.
“It makes no difference that no property was actually taken in this case,” Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, said in the decision. “Extortionate demands for property in the land-use permitting context run afoul of the Takings Clause not because they take property but because they impermissibly burden the right not to have property taken without just compensation.” [Atlantic Cities] —Zachary Kussin