Issues and Cases

Robbing individual property rights for the sake of a bird rookery

Ganson v. City of Marathon

Contact: Mark Miller

Status:  Filing Petition for Writ of Certiorari with Supreme Court of the United States in early September.

Gordon and Molly Beyer bought a nine-acre island, called Bamboo Key, in the City of Marathon in the early 1970s as an investment parcel for their family. At the time that they purchased the land, they were allowed to build one home per acre on the island, but in 1996, Monroe County declared Bamboo Key a “bird rookery” and prohibited any development whatsoever on the land. Most American families would not consider this a beneficial use for their property, property which they had to buy with hard-earned cash and that the government now wants to take for free.

The City admitted that the only allowable use left for the property was camping. However, because the Beyers received “points” under the City’s Residential Rate of Growth Ordinance (“ROGO”), transferrable development rights which in theory can be used to obtain building permits for other parcels of land (which the Beyers do not own), the government argued that it was allowed to take away the Beyers’ property without paying for it.

In 2013, the Third District Court of Appeal, one of Florida’s state appellate courts, found that the Beyers’ economic expectations for their property were reasonably met because the family can still use Bamboo Key for camping and because the government valued the “ROGO” points at $150,000. The lower court granted the government’s motion for summary judgment. From the government’s perspective, the Beyers left the island vacant for over twenty years, and they had no “distinct investment backed expectations for the property.” The Third District granted the government’s request to end the case without a trial, and the government’s attorneys did not even have to raise the argument on which the Court’s decision relied.

Fortunately for the Beyers, the Fifth Amendment provides that the government cannot take private property for public use without just compensation, and with the help of PLF, this family is determined to fight for its constitutional right to receive compensation for the taking of its property. Following the Beyers’ setback at the state appellate court, they filed a motion for rehearing, and the case has been pending on the motion for rehearing for three years.

Yes – the Beyer family has been waiting for three years. In the Beyers’ eyes, it is unfair for the Court to deny them a jury trial without hearing the facts of their case and the constitutional rights at stake, and without a chance for just compensation, this case truly seems to be for the birds!


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