Earlier this week, the Florida Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in St. Johns River Water Management District v. Koontz, which had been on remand since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Koontz family’s favor in July of 2013.
Even though the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Water Management District had violated Coy Koontz’s Fifth Amendment rights by denying his environmental permit application when he refused to agree to excessive development conditions (also known as “exactions”), it remanded the question of remedies to the Florida courts, specifically to determine whether monetary compensation awarded by the trial court would be paid to Koontz’s heirs.
On remand, the water management district sought to avoid paying compensation for the years it had withheld a permit, arguing that the state compensation statute under which Coy Koontz sued did not require payment.
The Florida Supreme Court’s decision this week not to disturb the trial court’s original compensation award prevented the family’s 2013 victory from being a hollow one.
Meanwhile, the pendency of the Koontz case on remand, and the associated uncertainty about remedies in the event of an unconstitutional development exaction, inspired the Florida Legislature to provide broader compensation rights through the enactment of § 70.45, Florida Statutes entitled “Government Exactions.”
This new statute, which became effective in October of 2015, provides monetary damages for permit exactions that are disproportionate to the impacts of proposed development.
Our hats off to the Florida Supreme Court for affording the Koontz family the same compensation remedy they helped secure for all Floridians.
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For more information: Koontz’s decades-long battle for property rights comes to a just end (Pacific Legal Foundation, 2/19/16)
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