The United States Supreme Court recently granted review of a Florida state court case, St. Johns River Management District v. Koontz. In this case, the property owner had for years sought to develop vacant, commercially owned land in Orange County, Florida. In many such instances the government will seek to impose a condition, or exaction, on the property owner in exchange for the right to develop property. In Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court case, the Court held that there must be a “close nexus” between the exaction or permit condition and the actual impact of the proposed development. For example, a developer who wishes to build a new skyscraper might be required to contribute to the cost of widening nearby roads to accommodate the increase in traffic. In the Koontz case, however, the government required the late Coy Koontz, Sr. to pay for improvements to 50 acres of property owned by the government itself, located 50 miles away. The government wanted Koontz to pay for the labor and material involved in replacing culverts and shoring up ditches on government property which had no relation to Koontz’s proposed development, with a six figure pricetag. This was an “offer” which Koontz could and did refuse. In so refusing, however, the government denied Koontz a permit to develop his own property.
With these facts, one may wonder how the government could have argued that this extortionist tactic complied with Nollan. The government argued that Nollan only involved a condition that the property owner dedicate land in exchange for a permit, whereas in the Koontz case the condition was the payment of money for labor and materials. The government also argued that Nollan only applies if a permit is granted with conditions, and does not apply to a permit which is denied by the property owner. Shockingly, the Florida Supreme Court agreed with the government. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme has intervened and this writer is optimistic that the Florida decision will be rejected.
Skilled Sacramento Constitutional Property Rights Attorneys
Special recognition goes out to the attorneys at Pacific Legal Foundation in Sacramento, who will be representing the Koontz family in this important case.
If you are experiencing difficulty obtaining a permit to develop property, call the Constitutional property rights lawyers at Kassouni Law for a consultation 1 (877) 770-7379.