Thursday, February 9, 2012
An earlier post on this blog raised the issue of whether the stringent takings standards of Nollan and Dolan are applicable at the point in time when the government, in a pre-decisional negotiating session, merely proposes a permit condition to counter environmental and infrastructural impacts of new development. A recent decision by the Florida Supreme Court in the matter of St. John’s River Water Management District v. Koontz concludes that the answer is no, though there are select opinions to the contrary in other jurisdictions. A related, or corresponding, temporal issue involves the doctrine of waiver: does a landowner, after acquiescing to a conditional permit, maintain the right to challenge the condition therein as a compensable taking? Several decisions out of California seem to suggest the answer is no. For instance, in Rossco Holdings, Inc. v. State of California, a state appellate court indicated that a landowner cannot challenge a condition attached to an issued permit after “specifically agreeing to the condition.”
If both Koontz and Rossco Holdings are correct, there arguably is never an opportunity to apply Nollan and Dolan. However, this obviously cannot be the case, for the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously preserved the Nollan and Dolan standards in 2005 in the course of clarifying components of its regulatory takings jurisprudence in Lingle v. Chevron, Inc.
So where does this leave the state of exaction takings law? My inclination is to say that Koontz is justifiable and Rossco Holdings — at least the above interpretation of Rossco Holdings — is suspect. Despite the many criticisms of and uncertainties surrounding exaction takings doctrine and the closely related unconstitutional conditions doctrine, the premise of these doctrines is evident: to protect people from being in the hopeless position of having no recourse but to submit to a manipulative, unconscionable state. Assuming this premise is both accurate and sound, it would seem that a landowner should be considered to have waived the right to challenge an exaction as a taking under Nollan and Dolan only after he or she has commenced the conditionally permitted construction or otherwise taken advantage of the permit.