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Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

ELR Citation: 32 ELR 20627
Nos. No. 00-1167, 122 S. Ct. 1465/(U.S., 04/23/2002) aff'd

The Court holds that moratoria on development imposed during the process of devising a comprehensive land use plan do not constitute a per se taking of property requiring compensation under the Takings Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Unable to meet deadlines in a compact designed to protect and preserve a lake, a regional land planning agency issued development moratoria until the permanent land use plan required by the compact was developed. About two months after adoption of the land use plan, property owners in the area brought suit against the planning agency claiming that the moratoria and the final plan constituted takings of the property owners' property without just compensation. The Court granted certiorari limited to whether the moratoria ordered by the planning agency were per se takings of property requiring compensation under the Takings Clause. The Court first holds that they were not. The Court has repeatedly recognized the distinction between physical takings, which involve application of per se rules, and regulatory takings, which are characterized by factual inquiries designed to examine and weigh all the relevant circumstances. Here, the property owners incorrectly applied physical takings rationale to regulatory cases to argue for a categorical rule that whenever the government imposes deprivation of all economically viable use of property, no matter how brief, it effects a taking. Supreme Court cases concerning regulatory takings have implicitly rejected the property owners' categorical approach. Moreover, these cases have not resolved the question of whether a regulation prohibiting any economic use of land for a period of time must be compensated. However, property owners' attempt to claim that all economically beneficial use of their land was deprived by focusing exclusively on the time the moratoria were in place must fail because to sever a portion of time from the fee simple estate and then ask whether the segment has been taken in its entirety ignores the Court's admonition to focus on the property as a whole. Further, fairness and justice will not be better served by a categorical rule that any deprivation of all economic use, no matter how brief, constitutes a compensable taking. That rule would apply to numerous normal delays and would require changes in practices that have long been considered permissible exercises of police power.

[Prior decisions in this litigation are published at 17 ELR 20584, 29 ELR 21290, and 30 ELR 20638.]

Counsel for Petitioner
Lawrence L. Hoffman
Law Offices of Lawrence L. Hoffman
3000 N. Lake Blvd., Ste. 1, Tahoe City CA 96145
(530) 583-8542

Counsel for Respondent
J. Thomas Susich
Crowell, Susich, Owen & Tackes
510 W. 4th St., Carson City NV 89703
(775) 882-1311

Stevens, J. Joined by O'Connor, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ.; Rehnquist, J., dissenting, joined by Scalia and Thomas, JJ.; Thomas, J., dissenting, joined by Scalia, J.