ACRU

ACRU Files Supreme Court Brief in Major Property Rights Case

WASHINGTON, DC (Nov. 30, 2012) — In a case with profound implications for property owners, the American Civil Rights Union filed a brief at the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, Nov. 28 arguing that bureaucrats so violated a Florida man’s constitutional rights against seizure of his property without proper compensation that it amounts to “extortion.”

The brief in Coy A. Koontz v. St. John’s River Water Management District, written by ACRU General Counsel Peter J. Ferrara, argues that state officials required conditions for issuing land use permits that constitute a “taking” prohibited under the Fifth Amendment.

In 1972, Coy Koontz bought 14.9 acres of land in Orange County, Florida, all but 1.4 acres of which were later designated by the state as a Riparian (near a river) Habitat Protection Zone. When Mr. Koontz sought permits to fill some wetlands to develop 3.7 acres for commercial use, officials conditioned the permits partly on Mr. Koontz’s making costly improvements to property miles away that he did not own.

“Our brief makes it clear that this violates precedent established in Nollan v. California Coastal Commission (1987) and Dolan v. City of Tigard (1993), in which the Court established the limits of what the government can require of landowners,” Mr. Ferrara said.

“The governmental purpose of the development ban on Koontz’s property is to protect riparian habitat and wildlife on that property,” the brief states. “But the purpose of the condition that Koontz can go ahead with his development as long as he bears the expense of restoration and enhancement of unrelated property owned by the District miles away from Koontz’s proposed development on his own property is merely to get the money for that unrelated restoration and enhancement. That is an out-and-out plan of extortion.”

Susan A. Carleson, Chairman and CEO of the ACRU, said she was optimistic that the Court will rule for the property owner.

“This is a golden opportunity for them to fix some of the damage the Court did in the infamous Kelo v. City of New London, (2005) case in Connecticut,” Mrs. Carleson said.