Stop Discouraging Sustainable Development

Target: Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr., Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

Goal: Stop protecting land developers and discouraging sustainable project designs

In the case of Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, Coy A. Koontz, Sr. applied for a permit to fill 3.4 acres of wetlands in order to build a small shopping center. The district denied his application after he refused to reduce the size of the development or spend money on any of a variety of wetlands-restoration projects. Koontz proceeded to sue the district; recently, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor.

This decision could substantially restrict the power of regulators nationwide and provide unfair protections to land developers. Mr. Koontz, who died in 2000, went to court and claimed that the permit denial constituted a “taking” under two Supreme Court precedents. Essentially, these cases established that when the government approved a development project subject to certain conditions, such as those proposed by the Florida water management district, the conditions would constitute a taking of private property unless the government could show that their requirements and the projected effects of the development were proportional. Although the Florida Supreme Court rejected Koontz’s “taking” argument, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the deceased developer.

The Supreme Court’s decision has several major implications. First, local government officials will be more likely to avoid negotiations with developers related to permit conditions, effectively stifling discussions of sustainable project designs. Second, many U.S. cities and towns routinely attach payment obligations to permits to support projects such as wetlands mitigation, the building of new schools, or affordable housing construction. Now land developers will be able to challenge these obligations quite easily.

The outcome of Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District may result in long-term harm to America’s communities. By signing this petition, you are condemning the Supreme Court’s decision. Due to the court’s ruling, the traditional legal approach of deferring to elected officials and technical experts on regulatory issues may soon disappear. Now, local residents and taxpayers may have to bare the cost of protecting their community from potentially harmful building projects.

PETITION LETTER: Dear Justice Alito,

In the case of Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the deceased developer. You wrote in the majority decision that landowners are especially vulnerable to coercion by the government in the land-use permit process. Furthermore, you stated that government terms for permits can amount to extortion in some circumstances. Although this is perhaps true in certain cases, the court’s ruling could substantially restrict the power of regulators nationwide and provide unfair protections to land developers.

The decision has several major implications. First, local government officials will be more likely to avoid negotiations with developers related to permit conditions; this stifles attempts to negotiate sustainable project designs. Second, many U.S. cities and towns routinely attach payment obligations to permits to support projects such as wetlands mitigation, the building of new schools, or affordable housing construction. Now, land developers will be able to challenge these obligations quite easily.

The outcome of Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District may result in long-term harm to America’s communities. I am condemning the Supreme Court’s decision. Now, local residents and taxpayers may have to bare the cost of protecting their community from potentially harmful building projects.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Public Domain

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Signatures

  • alper arslan
  • henny matthieu
  • theodore spachidakis
  • Helen Rogers
  • Doug Troup
  • Lisette de Waard
  • sue schümmer
  • brigitte hoin
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