Landscape Architect & Specifier News

AUG 2013

LASN is a photographically oriented, professional journal featuring topics of concern and state-of-the-art projects designed or influenced by registered Landscape Architects.

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U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Wetlands Protection Case Says Florida Water Rule Violated Landowner's Constitutional Rights The ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a 2011 decision by the Florida Supreme Court that went against landowner Coy Koontz Jr. Part of his property was on protected wetlands around the Econlockhatchee River (pictured), just east of Orlando in central Florida. Information Request 90 Landscape Architect and Specifier News The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 25 that state regulations followed by the St. Johns River Water Management District against a property owner to protect wetlands from development in Orange County, Fla. interfered with the landowner's constitutional rights. The ruling, applauded by property-rights advocates, could mean a national shift in how local governments approach regulating development. The ruling by the court reversed a 2011 decision by the Florida Supreme Court that went against landowner Coy Koontz Jr. In 1994, Koontz's father sought to develop acreage as commercial land beside State Road 50, which runs across central Florida through Orlando. The St. Johns River Water Management District requested a conservation easement, which Koontz agreed to. The district, however, also wanted Koontz to pay for environmental work done elsewhere, as state rules required creating 10 acres of wetlands for every wetland acre filled in. Koontz refused, and has been fighting the district in court for almost two decades. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the Supreme Court's ruling. He said the district's argument "rests on a mistaken premise," that the Florida state rules could amount to a "taking" of the Koontz land, a violation of the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment, which protects private property from being seized for public use without compensation. Justice Elena Kagan, a dissenting voice on the court's decision, said the court ruling "threatens … a vast array of land-use regulations…" She noted that "no taking occurred in this case because ... no property changed hands." She termed the decision "unwise." Paul Beard II, a Pacific Legal Foundation attorney, represented landowner Koontz. Attorney Doug Kendall, president of the nonprofit Constitutional Accountability Center, had filed arguments to the court on behalf of groups that included the American Planning Association. In a written reaction, Kendall judged the court's action as "judicial activism at its worst." He said the ruling would make it "more difficult for state and local officials to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the environment and # 512 promoting development."

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