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Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20140
Nos. 11-1447, (U.S., 06/25/2013)

The U.S. Supreme Court held that a government's demand for property from a land use permit application must satisfy the "nexus" and "rough proportionality" requirements of Nollan v. California Coastal Comm'n, 483 U.S. 825, 17 ELR 20918 (1987), and Dolan v. City of Tigard, 512 U.S. 374, 24 ELR 21083 (1994), even when the government denies the permit. The case arose after a water district denied a landowner's application to develop his wetland-containing property unless he reduced the size of his development and deeded the remaining property to the district or he hired contractors to make improvements to district-owned wetlands several miles away. Believing these demands to be excessive, the landowner filed a takings suit in state court. The trial court ruled that the district's actions were unlawful under Nollan and Dolan, which provide 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. The case made its way to the Florida Supreme Court, which reversed the decision, holding that Nollan and Dolan did not apply because the permit application was denied. That court also held that a demand for money cannot give rise to a claim under Nollan and Dolan. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed. The principles that undergird Nollan and Dolan do not change depending on whether the government approves a permit on the condition that the applicant turn over property or denies a permit because the applicant refuses to do so. Recognizing such a distinction would enable the government to evade the Nollan/Dolan limitations simply by phrasing its demands for property as conditions precedent to permit approval. Thus, the government's demand for property from a land use permit applicant must satisfy the Nollan/Dolan requirements even when it denies the permit. Likewise, the government's demand for property from a land use permit applicant must satisfy the Nollan/Dolan requirements even when its demand is for money. Although the Court held in Eastern Enterprises v. Apfel, 524 U.S. 498 (1998), that the Takings Clause does not apply to government-imposed financial obligations that do not "operate upon or alter an identified property interest," the case does not apply here, where the demand for money did burden the ownership of a specific parcel of land. Alito, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C.J. and Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, JJ., joined. Kagan, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor, JJ., joined.