In Brief

Vol. 45 No. 1

Theodore L. Garrett is a partner of the law firm Covington & Burling LLP in Washington, D.C. He is a past chair of the Section and is a contributing editor of Trends.

Constitutional law

Disproportionate demands for property or monetary conditions in land-use permitting run afoul of the takings clause, the U.S. Supreme Court held. Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Mgmt. Dist., 133 S. Ct. 2586 (2013). A property owner, Koontz, was informed by a Florida water management district that construction on wetlands would be approved only if he reduced the size of his development and gave the regulating district a conservation easement on the remainder of his property or paid for improvements to district-owned wetlands. Believing the demands to be excessive, Koontz brought a lawsuit alleging a taking without just compensation. The claims by Koontz were rejected by the Florida Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court reversed. Justice Alito’s opinion for the Court concludes that it made no difference that no property was actually taken in this case because disproportional demands are a constitutionally cognizable injury. Because of the direct link between the government’s demand and a specific parcel of real property, this Court held that the case presents the risk that the government may leverage its power in land-use permitting to pursue governmental ends that lack an essential nexus and rough proportionality to the impacts of a proposed use of the property. The Court expressed no view on the merits of Koontz’s claim, however, and remanded the case for further proceedings.

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