Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Florida Supreme Court ruling against an Orange County permit applicant claiming that the water management district’s requirements were an unconstitutional taking of his land.   When the late Coy A. Koontz Sr. sought permits to develop his property, the St. Johns River Water Management District told him that he could build if he reduced the size of his development or paid for work restoring wetlands on property owned by the District seven miles away.  Mr. Koontz refused and filed suit.

A circuit court awarded Koontz just over $376,000 for the temporary taking of his property, and the 5th District Court of Appeal denied the District’s appeal.   In 2011, the Florida Supreme Court reversed the decision, ruling that if governments were required to pay landowners for any regulation construed as the taking of land, then regulation itself would become prohibitively expensive.   Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that decision, holding that previous legal tests of whether a constitutionally prohibited taking occurs should apply even when government denies a permit or demands money.

The case will now be remanded back to the Florida Supreme Court for a rehearing.

Legal experts disagree as to the effect on future development permit review – some believe that agencies and local government may simply deny applications if there are adverse impacts, and others believe that the ruling may encourage regulators to offer more than one option to applicants.   A joint statement released by the St. Johns River Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said that the U.S. Supreme Court opinion “clarified the constitutional protections that must be afforded to landowners when governmental entities issue permits affecting protected property interests,” and that they would work to ensure that the legal principles announced are being addressed.

For a copy of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, see:  http://static-lobbytools.s3.amazonaws.com/press/58114_n_in_case_no_11_1447_before_the_united_states_supreme_court.pdf

For a copy of the Florida Supreme Court decision, see:

http://static-lobbytools.s3.amazonaws.com/press/20111103_sc09_713.pdf