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Supreme Court rules for landowner in property rights case

The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-4 Tuesday in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] in favor of a landowner in a property rights case. Carl Koontz, Sr. refused to contribute money to protect the wetlands in order to get a permit to redevelop some acres of land. The St. Johns River Water Management District then denied his permit, but did not take his land. The court analyzed the case under the essential nexus and rough proportionality tests of Nollan v. California Coastal Commission and Dolan v. City of Tigard [opinions]. In those cases the court held that the government may not condition the approval of a land-use permit on the owner's relinquishment of a portion of his property unless there is a "nexus" and "rough proportionality" between the government's demand and the effects of the proposed land use. Reversing the judgment of the Florida Supreme Court, Justice Samuel Alito held "that the government's demand for property from a land-use permit applicant must satisfy the requirements of Nollan and Dolan even when the government denies the permit and even when its demand is for money."

Justice Elena Kagan filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Kagan would not extend Nollan and Dolan "to cases in which the government conditions a permit not on the transfer of real property, but instead on the payment or expenditure of money." The court heard oral arguments [JURIST report] in the case in January.

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