The Expansion of the ‘Unconstitutional Conditions’ Doctrine In Land Use Regulation

The United States Supreme Court extended important protections to landowners faced with ‘unconstitutional conditions’ imposed on them by the government in the context of land-use regulations. Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, — U.S. —, 133 S.Ct. 2586 (2013).

Mr. Koontz owns 14.9 acres of land in Florida, most of which contains wetlands. He proposed to develop a 3.7 acre portion of it and deed a conservation easement to the St. Johns River Water Management District (District) on the remaining acres (about 11 acres) to mitigate the environmental effect of the development. The District, however, considered the 11 acre easement to be inadequate and told Mr. Koontz that it would approve the development only if he agreed to one of two concessions. He could reduce the size of his development to 1 acre and grant an easement over the remaining 13.9 acres. Or, in the alternative, he could proceed as originally proposed (build on the 3.7 acres while deeding an easement over the remaining acres) only if he also agreed to make improvements on District-owned land several miles away. Mr. Koontz believed that these alternatives were excessive in light of the environmental effects of his proposal and refused. The District denied his permit. Thereafter, Mr. Koontz filed suit under a Florida state law allowing landowners monetary damages for an agency’s unreasonable exercise of the state’s police power which constitute a taking without just compensation. Continue reading “The Expansion of the ‘Unconstitutional Conditions’ Doctrine In Land Use Regulation”