By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times
June 26, 2013

WASHINGTON — In a decision bolstering private property rights, the Supreme Court ruled that a Florida landowner could sue a local government agency for denying him a building permit because he refused to pay for improvements on public property several miles away.

The 5-4 decision expanded the ability of property owners to claim that government requirements attached to land-use permits amount to an improper “taking” under the Constitution. The 5th Amendment says private property can not be taken for public use without “just compensation.”

“The ruling is a powerful victory for everybody’s constitutional property rights, from coast to coast,” said Paul J. Beard II, principal attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, a property rights group that represented the landowner in the case.

“Regulators can’t hold permit applicants hostage with unjustified demands for land or other concessions — including, as in this case, unjustified demands for money,” Beard said.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said “extortionate demands” from government agencies in exchange for granting a permit application “frustrate the Fifth Amendment right to just compensation” and are prohibited by court precedents.

Those precedents, including a landmark 1987 case involving the California Coastal Commission, had applied to instances in which landowners were required to give up some of their property in exchange for building or other land-use permits.

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