Justices side with government in property rights case

Justices side with government in property rights case”

In delivering the opinion of the court, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the family had not been deprived of all economically beneficial use of their property. In recent decades, property rights advocates have aggressively tried to limit regulation by demanding compensation.

However, under state law, if abutting, commonly owned lots don't each have at least one acre of developable land, they together constitute a single, buildable lot. The rules were created to prevent too much development along the St. Croix River.

The Murrs wanted to sell the lot next to their cabin, but were denied a county land variance to separately use or sell their two adjoining lots. The lots were later transferred to his children in the 1990s. Under the regulations, they could build a house that was bigger than the existing one, but they could not have two houses on the two lots which now were considered merged into one.

"We will continue the fight for property owners and for the integrity of the constitutional right against uncompensated government takings", he continued.

The family appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that separate property interests, even if adjacent and owned by the same person, can not be combined to determine claims of whether property has been taken through regulation. But today the justices ruled in favor of the regulators.

The 5-3 ruling on Friday involved the Murr family's effort to sell part of its land along the St. Croix River.

"The issue here was for a specific and legitimate objective", he observed.

Holmes made that statement in the very opinion that first established the concept of a regulatory taking. They planned to use the proceeds from an empty lot to pay for improvements on a cabin that sits on adjacent land. In the end, he said, the loss in the value of the Murrs' land was only about 10 percent.

Roberts said he disagreed with the majority's analysis of other factors besides state and local law, including physical characteristics of the land and its prospective value.

"This is an unfortunate decision for the Murrs, and all property owners", said John Groen, PLF's Executive Vice President and General Counsel.

William Treanor, Dean of Georgetown University Law Center, said the decision would have a profound effect in cases involving wetlands. The ruling could make it harder for property owners to prove compensation claims. Courts must strive for consistency with the central objective of the Takings Clause: to "bar Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole.".

TOTENBERG: Harvard Law School's Richard Lazarus calls the decision a huge victory for government regulators and environmentalists.

"There is no nuance to the ruling", he said.

The case was closely watched by property rights and business groups that say it should be easier for landowners to get compensation when government regulations restrict land use. "It just looks at the most environmentally sensitive part, and restricts your use of that piece".

The ruling (PDF) came three months after the court heard oral arguments in Washington, D.C. The justices agreed with lower courts that the county's regulations meant to limit development on the lower river did not illegally deprive land-owners of its value.

Roberts acknowledged that the test he suggested might have ended up with the same result, meaning the regulations at issue would not have amounted to a taking of private property, and the Murrs would not have qualified for compensation.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, who joined the court after the case was argued, did not participate in Friday's decision.

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