Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Koontz Redux

That was a long post.  Let me sum up.

1) The majority said that any compensation conditions attached to a permit should have a "nexus" and "rough proportionality" with the impact -- but gave no general guidance about how this should be determined, nor indicated exactly what about the specific facts of the Koontz case lacked nexus and rough proportionality.
2) It looks as though what bothered Alito (although I'm entirely reading between the lines here) was that:
  • The compensation site was on state-owned land
  • It was "several miles away" from the impact site
  • It involved a great deal more acreage than the impact site.
3) Both majority and dissenting opinions stress that simple permit denial would be an effective and efficient way of avoiding any takings issues at all.

Finally, and this is something I'm hearing informally as well as on SCOTUSblog -- it's unclear whether this will actually impact practice much.  Arguably, the architecture of the current mitigation regulations ensures that compensation sites already have a nexus and are roughly proportional to the impact.  This could be where Pacific Legal's cherry-picking and venue-shopping ways work against them -- sure, they found a case in which a takings case could be made, but it could be the exception proving the rule, highlighting that most permit conditions are well-connected to and proportionate to the impact.

As SCOTUSblog says:
The decision has the potential to significantly expand property-owners’ ability to challenge local land use regulations and fees, though it is not clear that this expansion will result in a significant number of successful challenges. Here, the Court expressly reserved judgment on whether Koontz’s claim is actually meritorious.
The court has given both permittees and regulators a lot to chew on, but declined to put clear sideboards on what would constitute a permissable condition.  In the absence of a clear directive, the status quo (dressed up in language referencing the majority opinion), might continue to hold.

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