The Supreme Court sided today with a Florida landowner who challenged terms for a state-issued permit for developing wetlands. The 5-4 decision in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District is a major win for property rights supporters who believe the government has too much control over landowners in the permitting process. Advocates contend landowners deserve greater protections under the Fifth Amendment's "takings clause," which states that no private property may be taken for public use "without just compensation." NAR helped develop and sign on to an Amicus Brief supporting Koontz, which stated that there should be some relationship between the amount of property being developed and what the local government asks for in return.
Koontz, of Orange County, Fla., sought to develop 3.7 acres that the St. Johns River Water Management District classified as a habitat protection zone and offered to place an additional 11 acres into a conservation easement in return for the permit. But state regulators asked him to do more, including reducing the size of the proposed development to 1 acre. Alternatively, the water district also said Koontz could move forward with his development as long as he hired contractors to make improvements to district-owned wetlands miles away. Koontz refused either of the terms, and his permit application was denied.