Just in case there are a number of property rights advocates out there who are farmers, ranchers, and others who own private property, there is light at the end of the tunnel for you because of a recent landmark Supreme Court case which favored private property owners. (Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 1447.)
In the ruling which was argued by the Pacific Legal Foundation(PLF), Sacramento, on behalf of Coy Koontz, governments, may owe compensation to property owners who are denied permits to develop their land. In effect, the ruling was a very serious blow to local governments and their vast municipality-bureaucratic overreach. In this case, the St. Johns River Water Dept. was stripped of its sainthood…demoted. It was a bad day.
An agencies requirements to pay fees or other payments as a condition of permit approvals will now be subject to heightened scrutiny. The decision becomes a revolutionary change in the law.
In the 18 year old battle, Florida declared much of the Koontz 15 acre parcel as protected wetlands and this became the basis of a “takings” claim which is a term used when government either denies a person the use of their land or requires them to give up some of their land, or else pay money to protect wetlands elsewhere which was in the case of Koontz.
Well, it didn’t fly and the extortionate demands were thrown a curve. Paul Beard, principal attorney with the PLF, who argued Koontz’s appeal, said the decision “raises the bar for governments to extract money from owners of land, homes or businesses, even if it may be to serve the public good.” Paul Beard went on to say, “This case reaffirms the principle that government must show a connection between what it asks for and what the property owner wants to do. Governments don’t have Carte Blanche any more to say, ‘Give us $100,000 and we’ll give you a permit.’”
In summary, municipal empires have regularly used encroaching environmentalism and administrative law to bully their way into property rights disputes. A planning hierarchy such as St. Johns River has now been shown to be an unjust government entity which far exceeded its bounds. The U. S. Supreme Court ruling is a victory for those advocates of private property rights.