The Court Favored Government Regulation Over Private Property Rights
If Americans truly are free, should we have to ask government if we can use our own property? The Florida Supreme Court thinks so.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled that government does not have to pay private property owners any money when government regulations or actions reduce the value of someone’s property by making it impossible for people to develop their land.
The case is SJRWMD v Koontz (Nov. 2011). It involved a man who wanted to develop 3.7 acres of a 14.2 acre property he owned in Central Florida, in 1994. 3.4 of the 3.7 acres were wetlands and therefore required permit approval for development by the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD). SJRWMD wanted him to deed his remaining property as a conservation area and reduce the planned development from 3.7 acres to 1 acre. He declined to decrease the proposed development and his permits were denied.
In 2004, a trial court found in Koontz’s favor, ruling that SJRWMD’s permit denial was essentially a “taking” of Koontz’s property. SJRWMD appealed twice, both times the 5th District Court of Appeals (DCA) denied their request. In 2006, the trial court awarded Koontz $376,154 in damages. SJRWMD appealed again and the 5th DCA affirmed the lower court’s ruling. SJRWMD appealed again, this time to the Florida Supreme Court.
Seventeen years after Koontz originally filed his permit request, the FL Supreme Court ruled against him. The court noted as their reasoning that if these type of restrictions were considered exactions (takings), land regulation could become prohibitively expensive for government..
By this point in time, Koontz had passed away and his son had taken over the fight. Koontz was never able to develop his property and was never paid any money by the state. Government, with nearly unlimited resources and unlimited time, out-spent and out-lived this property owner.
This case is still being litigated – it has been appealed to the US Supreme Court.