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Richardson: SCOTUS Koontz Decision Affirms Sound Land Use Planning

Amidst DOMA, Fisher, and Shelby this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court decided an important land use case that did not quite get the same national attention: Coy A. Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled in favor of Koontz, a Florida property developer, in what some legal scholars see as blow to sustainable development. 

WVU Law land use attorney Jesse Richardson, however, sees Koontz as an affirmation of sound land use planning practices.

In the case, Koontz sought a permit to develop a portion of land and place a conversation easement on several additional acres. Much of the Koontz property includes wet lands. St. Johns countered with two alternative options conditional to granting a permit. Koontz did not agree to either option.

“The Koontz ruling merely confirms the Nollan/Dolan test and holds that its principles of proportionality and rationality also apply to cash exactions,” said Richardson.

The so-called Nollan/Dolan Test is based on two precedent-setting cases—Nollan v. California Coastal Commission in 1987 and Dolan v. City of Tigard in 1994. In both, it was found that the local governments had attached irrational and disproportionate conditions to granting land use permits.

Ultimately, Richardson sees this summer’s Koontz decision as being an affirmation of “careful, methodical, fact-based” land use planning.

“Good planners should be happy about Koontz,” he said. “Local governments should only impose conditions on permits that conform to rational and proportionality principals.”

Click here to read Richardson’s review of Coy A. Koontz, Jr., v. St. Johns River Water Management District .


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