U.S. Supreme Court decides with Orange County landowner

Between 1993 and 1994, Orange County landowner Coy Koontz sought permits to prepare a 15-acre tract of land for commcercial development.

Little did he know that what would followe would a decade-long legal battle that would make it all the way to the Supreme Court before finally being decided Tuesday, 13 years after his own death.

The issue in this case was that Koontz's land was considered wetlands, which are protected by numerous federal laws. Owners of property that is considered wetlands often have great difficulty in developing them because there are so many laws and restrictions with with they must comply.

In essence, the St. Johns River Water Management District told Koontz he could have the permits but only if he paid to restore wetlands elsewhere in Orange County.

Koontz sued, claiming it was unlawful for the government to restrict his right to develop his land so severely. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed, holding that the requirement that Koontz restore wetlands elsewhere in Orange County was too tangential to the issue of whether he had the right to develop the parcel he did own.

(Koontz died in 2000, but his son took over the case).

Although this decision is fairly new, it will likely have implications for commercial real estate development not only in Florida, but perhaps also in other states that have followed this case on its way to the Supreme Court.

Many states, including Florida, have sought to exercise control over the way people develop their land. In some cases, like zoning restrictions meant to promote health and safety, these conditions are upheld. In other situations, such as this, they are struck down because they amount to too much interference.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, "U.S. Supreme Court sides with Orange County landowner in property-rights case," Kevin Spears, June 25, 2013