Court's 1994 ruling still stands, court rules

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme reaffirmed its 1994 ruling involving the city of Tigard when it overturned a Florida court.Last week, while the nation was glued to news from the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark rulings involving gay marriage and affirmative action, the court re-affirmed a decision it made in 1994, concerning the city of Tigard.

In a ruling that was little-seen by the national media, the Supreme Court upheld its decision on Tuesday, June 25, when it overturned a Florida Supreme Court ruling involving private property rights and land use mitigation.

That Florida case, Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, was similar to a case it heard nearly 20 years ago, Dolan v. City of Tigard, a land-use case involving the now-closed A-Boy Plumbing & Electrical Supply on Southwest Main Street.

In the Tigard case, store owner Florence Dolan wanted to expand the store and put in a parking lot. The city approved the project, with the condition that the company give a portion of her property to the city and create a bike path along Fanno Creek to help offset congestion.

The Supreme Court said that was unconstitutional, adding that the city could not force property owners to give up portions of their property unless there was an “essential nexus” between the permit’s conditions and legitimate state interest, and said that the proposed impact must be related to the permit.

The case established limits on what governments can do to compel property owners to make public improvements and has been used across the country to keep cities and other local governments from overstepping their bounds in zoning and land use mitigation.

AlitoThe court upheld that ruling last week when it ruled on the Florida case, which involved a property owner who hoped to develop a portion of his property and give much of the land to the St. Johns River Water Management District.

The district rejected his proposal unless he agreed to either scale back his plans and give the district a larger easement, or pay to hire contractors to make improvements on separate land the district owned several miles away.

The landowner, Coy Koontz argued that under the Supreme Court’s Tigard decision — as well as a similar California decision, Nollan v. California Coastal Commission — the district should have been prevented from making those demands.

The court agreed in a 5-4 decision that Koontz could sue the district for denying his permit, with Justice Samuel Alito delivering the majority opinion.

“The district did not approve his application on the condition that he surrender an interest in his land,” Alito write. “Instead, the district, after suggesting that he could obtain approval by signing over such an interest, denied his application because he refused to yield.”

What the district did, the Justices said, constituted a taking of Koontz’s land without just compensation, which was unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment, and could have allowed governments to get around the Tigard ruling by forcing landowners to make payments in lieu of easements or other property.

“Our decisions in Nollan v. California Coastal Comm’n ... and Dolan v. City of Tigard, provide important protection against the misuse of the power of land-use regulation,” Alito wrote in his opinion. “In those cases, we held that a unit of government may not condition the approval of a land-use permit on the owner’s relinquishment of a portion of his property unless there is a ‘nexus’ and ‘rough proportionality’ between the government’s demand and the effects of the proposed land use.”

The case now heads back to the lower court.

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