There’s no “off site” exception to Fifth Amendment’s takings clause
St. Johns River Water Management District v. Koontz
Contact: Paul J. Beard II and Brian T. Hodges
Status: Victory! The U.S. Supreme Court issued a favorable decision on Jun. 25, 2013, holding that the government's demand for property from a land use permit must satisfy the Nolan and Dolan requirements even when it denies the permit.
Coy A. Koontz wants to develop commercial land, most of which lies within a riparian habitat protection zone in Orange County, Florida. He applied for a dredge and fill permit with the St. Johns Water Management District. St. Johns agreed to grant the permit, but only on the condition that he place a conservation easement over his land, and perform mitigation off-site by replacing culverts and plugging certain drainage canals on other properties not owned by Koontz and miles away from the property. When Koontz refused to perform the off-site mitigation, St. Johns denied the permit.
Koontz filed an inverse condemnation suit in circuit court. Koontz argued that the off-site mitigation requirement violated Nollan v. California Coastal Commission and Dolan v. Tigard. The circuit court applied Nollan and Dolan, holding that the requirement bore no connection to the project’s alleged impacts on the riparian habitat protection zone. The court awarded Koontz compensation for a temporary taking.
The court of appeals affirmed, but the Florida Supreme Court reversed. The Supreme Court held that no taking under Nollan and Dolan had occurred, because (1) Nollan and Dolan apply only to forced dedications of interests in real property (not to mitigation work); and (2) Nollan and Dolan apply only when government approves and issues a permit with conditions (not when it denies a permit, and therefore nothing has been demanded of or taken from the landowner).
PLF filed a petition on behalf of Koontz in the United States Supreme Court, asking it to establish: (1) Nollan and Dolan apply to an exaction that takes the form of a government demand that the applicant improve property off-site; and (2) these doctrines extend to permit exactions, where the permit has been denied due to the applicant’s rejection of that exaction.