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Was Florida landowner victim of government 'shakedown'? Supreme Court rules.

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Mr. Beard, who argued the case at the high court, said the ruling is a victory for property owners across the country and will protect all land owners in the midst of a government permitting process.

He said the ruling bars government regulators from making extortionate demands of those seeking development permits.

“The ruling underscores that homeowners and other property owners who seek permits to make reasonable use of their property cannot be forced to surrender their rights,” Beard said. “Regulators can’t hold permit applicants hostage with unjustified demands for land or other concessions – including, as in this case, unjustified demands for money.”

The decision establishes that the government must be able to demonstrate a connection between the mitigation required as a condition of a development permit and the harms to be mitigated from the proposed project. The requirement will apply regardless of whether the demanded mitigation is in the form of a transfer of real property or the expenditure of money.

In a dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said that the boundaries of the high court’s new rule were uncertain. “But it threatens to subject a vast array of land-use regulations, applied daily in States and localities throughout the country, to heightened constitutional scrutiny,” she said.

“I would not embark on so unwise an adventure,” she said.

The opinion stems from a lawsuit filed 18 years ago over a decision by the St. Johns River Water Management District to deny a development permit for a project on vacant land east of Orlando, Florida.

The owner, Coy Koontz, Sr., had purchased the 14-acre tract in 1972. Most of the land was subsequently designated as protected wetlands.

In 1994, Mr. Koontz applied for two permits to develop 3.7 acres of his land near the intersection of two major highways.

As mitigation to lost wetlands, he offered to place the remaining 11 acres of his land in a conservation easement.

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