Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 1447.

So my young planners have been passing around this story about a Florida property owner who won his case in front of SCOTUS.  Yes, this makes it more difficult for government to do its job, but have you folks read this thing?  I don’t think the property owner acted unreasonably here:

After Florida declared much of the parcel as protected wetlands, Koontz proposed to develop about a quarter of it and dedicate the rest for conservation, only to have local officials insist that he pay money to protect wetlands elsewhere.

Koontz said no, and a trial court awarded him $327,500 for being unable to use his property. Florida’s highest court then threw this award out, saying that because St. Johns never issued a permit and Koontz never spent money, “nothing was ever taken.”

Writing for the Supreme Court majority, Justice Samuel Alito said governments may not condition land-use permits on owners giving up the use of some property absent a “nexus” and “rough proportionality” between the demand and the effect of the proposed land use.

Now, much of the story here is buried in what really happened, but the guy was working with them; he respected their need for a conservation easement, and they hit him up for more of an offset. Now, maybe there are species-related reasons for that, and I’m not a lawyer, but I’m less sanguine that this finding is the end of exactions. It may mean that governments need to do a better job making their case and negotiating deals, which they should do anyway. If we care about wetlands and species, the rest of us can take on some of the cost burden of protecting them, too.

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