Supreme Court Ruling a Victory for Developers’ Fifth Amendment Property Rights

U.S. Supreme CourtThe U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling today in the closely-watched Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District case.  The decision is a major victory for private property rights, particularly in the land use permitting context.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled in favor of Koontz, who argued that the District violated his Fifth Amendment rights when it denied his requested permit unless he (1) reduced the size of his development and gave the District additional property beyond the nearly 75 percent he already offered, or (2) hired contractors to improve wetlands owned by the District several miles away.  The Fifth Amendment of course protects property owners from government takings without just compensation.  According to Justice Alito, who wrote the decision for the majority (which included Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas), “extortionate demands of this sort frustrate the Fifth Amendment right to just compensation.”

By way of background, Koontz was required under Florida law to offset the environmental damage resulting from his project if he wanted to build in the wetlands.  Koontz proposed to mitigate those environmental effects by giving the District a conservation easement to 75 percent of his property.  The District refused absent Koontz’s compliance with the additional demands referenced above.  Koontz felt the District’s demands were excessive and filed suit alleging they amounted to a taking without just compensation.

The Court dismissed concerns that its ruling would “work a revolution in land use law or unduly limit the discretion of local authorities to implement sensible land use regulations.”  The District and other permitting authorities fear precisely that result.

For more information on this important case or questions regarding permitting and takings disputes, please contact David McCay, a Massachusetts real estate and environmental litigator at Mirick O’Connell at (508) 791-8500.

About David McCay

Dave is a partner in the firm’s litigation and land use groups where he assists clients in the resolution of complex real estate, environmental and business disputes. He also represents property owners, developers and municipalities in local land use permitting matters. Dave is active in the Boroughs+ region serving recently as the Chair of the Southborough Economic Development Committee and of the Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the 495/MetroWest Partnership and the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation. Outside of the office, Dave is an avid cyclist competing in road races and criteriums across New England. He lives in Southborough with his wife and two sons.
This entry was posted in Construction, Environmental, Municipal, Open Space, Wetlands, Zoning and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Supreme Court Ruling a Victory for Developers’ Fifth Amendment Property Rights

  1. Charles H. Davis II says:

    dear david, thank you for this timely information. charles h. davis ii  

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