Friday, July 12, 2013

Supreme Court ruling on wetlands and property taking is 'a legal blow to sustainable development'

Rules that a Florida water management district "used to protect wetlands from development interfered with a Central Florida landowner’s constitutional rights," the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in a 5-4 vote, reversing a Florida Supreme Court ruling. Steve Patterson reports for the Florida Times-Union, "The ruling could shift standards nationally about how governments can regulate development, and it was cheered by property-rights advocates." (Legal Planet photo: The property at issue)

When Coy Koontz "sought to develop 3.7 acres as commercial land beside the highway in 1994, the district asked for a conservation easement on the rest of the family’s land, to which he agreed," Patterson writes. "It also wanted him to pay for environmental work done elsewhere, which he refused. The district said it had to ask for off-site work, because state rules required creating 10 acres of wetlands for every wetland acre that would be filled in. In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the Florida decision "violates the Fifth Amendment, which protects private property from being seized for public use without compensation." Koontz's son, Coy Koontz Jr. now owns the land, and he brought the suit against the St. Johns River Water Management District. (Read more)

In a New York Times op-ed piece, Vermont Law School Professor John D. Echeverria writes that the decision "will result in long-lasting harm to America’s communities. That’s because the ruling creates a perverse incentive for municipal governments to reject applications from developers rather than attempt to negotiate project designs that might advance both public and private goals — and it makes it hard for  communities to get property owners to pay to mitigate any environmental damage they may cause."

Echeverria notes Justice Elena Kagan's dissent, saying the decision will encourage local officials to avoid any discussion with developers related to permit conditions that, in the end, might have let both sides find common ground on building projects that are good for the community and environmentally sound. Rather than risk a lawsuit through an attempt at compromise, many municipalities will simply reject development applications outright — or, worse, accept development plans they shouldn’t."

"In the wake of this under-the-radar ruling, the cost of protecting a community from a harmful building project now lies not with the developer but with the local residents and taxpayers," Echeverria opines.. "It’s hard to fathom that the framers of the Constitution would call this either fairness or justice." (Read more)

1 comment:

Jorge Rink said...

I believe that under the Constitution, members of this pollution infected Court can be impeached. This Ruling and other similar rulings of the past few years by this Court will only Create Unlivable conditions in Many areas of Florida by allowing Developers to completely destroy this States Ecosystems and Fresh Water supplies. These Developer Bribed Judges must be Impeached One way or another to not only protect States against Land Carpet Baggers but also to protect and presrve the credibility of the full Court system. They are a Disgrace to the system