Conditions to Development Approvals as Unconstitutional Takings?
Has your developer client been required, as a condition to receiving a necessary development approval, to contribute money or take any other action he or she considers unrelated to any potential impact from his or her proposed development activities? More importantly, has your client ever been denied a development permit after refusing to accept such a condition imposed by a governmental authority? If so, you should watch for the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Koontz v. St. Johns River Management District, case number 11-1447, to see if the Court will expand the "unconstitutional conditions doctrine."
In the Koontz case, the St. Johns River Management District (the "District") refused to issue approvals required to allow Mr. Koontz to develop a portion of his property unless he agreed to contribute money and labor to improve government-owned property located between 4-½ and 7 miles away. Mr. Koontz would not agree to the District's requirement that he perform and pay for the off-site improvements, and the District denied his permit application.
Mr. Koontz sued the District, alleging that the District's condition related to the off-site improvements constituted an unconstitutional taking of his property. His argument relied heavily on the principles established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, 483 U.S. 825 (1987) and Dolan v. City of Tigard, 512 U.S. 374 (1994).
Although he prevailed at the trial court and the initial appellate court, the Florida Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the District. See St. Johns River Management District v. Koontz, 77 So. 3d 1220 (Fla. 2011). The Florida Supreme Court based its decision on a narrow reading of the Nollan and Dolan cases, holding that the decisions in those cases applied only where the condition sought to be imposed by the governmental authority requires a dedication by the owner of an interest in real property in exchange for the requested approval.
In the Koontz case, we will learn if the U.S. Supreme Court will extend the unconstitutional conditions doctrine to include conditions imposed by governmental authorities that go beyond the granting of an interest in real property. The Koontz case may represent an important development in the law applicable to inverse-condemnation cases.
Opinions and conclusions in this post are solely those of the author unless otherwise indicated. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and is not offered and cannot be considered as legal advice for any particular situation. The author has provided any links that might be referenced above for information purposes only and by doing so, does not adopt or incorporate the contents.
Submitted by: John R. Rutledge