Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District

Jun 25: In the U.S. Supreme Court, case No. 11-1447, appealed from the Supreme Court of Florida. Background information indicates that for over eleven years, a Florida land use agency refused to issue any of the permits necessary for Coy A. Koontz, Sr., to develop his commercial property. The reason was because Koontz would not accede to a permit condition requiring him to dedicate his money and labor to make improvements to 50 acres of government-owned property located miles away from the project-a condition that was determined to be wholly unrelated to any impacts caused by Koontz's proposed development. A Florida trial court ruled that the agency's refusal to issue the permits was invalid and effected a temporary taking of Koontz's property, and awarded just compensation. After the appellate court affirmed, the Florida Supreme Court reversed, holding that, as a matter of Federal takings law, a landowner can never state a claim for a taking where: (1) permit approval is withheld based on a landowner's objection to an excessive exaction, and (2) the exaction demands dedication of personal property to the public.
    According to the docket, the questions presented are: 1. Whether the government can be held liable for a taking when it refuses to issue a land-use permit on the sole basis that the permit applicant did not accede to a permit condition that, if applied, would violate the essential nexus and rough proportionality tests set out in Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, 483 U.S. 825 (1987), and Dolan v. City of Tigard, 512 U.S. 374 (1994); and 2. Whether the nexus and proportionality tests set out in Nollan and Dolan apply to a
land-use exaction that takes the form of a government demand that a permit applicant dedicate money, services, labor, or any other type of personal property to a public use.
    In a 5-4 decision in which Justices Alito, Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas were the majority and Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor dissented, the majority ruled to overturn the Florida Supreme Court ruling. In the majority opinion, the Justices said, "Our decisions in Nollan v. California Coastal Comm'n, 483 U. S. 825 (1987), and Dolan v. City of Tigard, 512 U. S. 374 (1994), provide important protection against the misuse of the power of land-use regulation. In those cases, we held that a unit of government may not condition the approval of a land-use permit on the owner's relinquishment of a portion of his property unless there is a 'nexus' and 'rough proportionality' between the government's demand and the effects of the proposed land use. In this case, the St. Johns River Water Management District(District) believes that it circumvented Nollan and Dolan because of the way in which it structured its handling of a permit application submitted by Coy Koontz, Sr., whose estate is represented in this Court by Coy Koontz, Jr. blessed this maneuver and thus effectively interred those important decisions. Because we conclude that Nollan and Dolan cannot be evaded in this way, the Florida Supreme Court's decision must be reversed."
    The dissenting opinion indicates, "Our core disagreement concerns the second question the Court addresses. The majority extends Nollan and Dolan to cases in which the government conditions a permit not on the transfer of real property, but instead on the payment or expenditure of money. That runs roughshod over Eastern Enterprises v. Apfel, 524 U. S. 498 (1998), which held that the government may impose ordinary financial obligations without triggering the Takings Clause's protections. The boundaries of the majority's new rule are uncertain. But it threatens to subject a vast array of land-use regulations, applied daily in States and localities throughout the country, to heightened constitutional scrutiny. I would not embark on so unwise an adventure, and would affirm the Florida Supreme Court's decision. I also would affirm for two independent reasons establishing that Koontz cannot get the money damages he seeks. . ."
    Access the complete opinion and dissent (click here). Access the SupCt docket (click here). Access the SCOTUS blog for briefs and additional information on the case (click here). [#Land, #SupCt]
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