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Landowners win case on Property Rights

On June 25 2013, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision ruled in favor of the plaintiff in Koontz v. St Johns River Water Management District.  The plaintiff (Koontz) owned a 14.9-acre tract of mostly wetlands near Orlando Florida. He wished to develop 3.7 acres and filed for a permit to dredge and fill that portion of his land. In exchange, he pledged  to conserve the remaining portion of his land.
 
The St Johns River Water Management District required he only develop one-acre, or make improvements to government owned land nearby in exchange for a permit to be issued. Koontz sued, and the case has been dragging on through the courts for 11 years. Mr. Koontz has since passed away, and the land now belongs to his son, Coy Koontz, Jr.
 
The District contended that there was no 5th amendment issue under the Just Compensation Clause as the was no taking of the property. The court ruled in favor of the landowner saying in part " It makes no difference that no property was actually taken in this case. Extortionate demands for property in the land-use permitting context run afoul of the Takings Clause not because they take property but because they impermissibly burden the right not to have property taken without just compensation."
 
This is a victory for landowner's rights. It has become more common for government agencies to use their power to coerce concessions from landowners to their detriment.  It will be interesting to see how other cases are decided in similar matters.

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