Small Business asks SCOTUS to Invalidate Local Ordinance Robbing Property Owners of their Rights

Date: June 10, 2016

Contact: Kelly Klass (609)713-4243

Ordinance forcing property owners to set aside land for conservation violates the Constitution, says NFIB

Washington, D.C. (June 10, 2016) – Forcing shoreline property owners to dedicate a significant portion of their land for “conservation”, without any compensation, is a direct violation of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment Takings Clause, said the National Federation of Independent Business today in a brief filed before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

“The Supreme Court ruled several years ago that it is flat-out unconstitutional to force property owners to dedicate their land as a condition of getting necessary permits,” said Karen Harned, Executive Director of the NFIB Small Business Legal Foundation. “Here we have a county in Washington State trying to use its power to bully landowners and hold their property hostage. The Constitution protects private property and landowners’ rights to use their property as they please.”

At issue in Common Sense Alliance v. Growth Management Hearings Board is whether the government can leverage ordinances to take private property that they would otherwise have to purchase.  The case challenges a San Juan County ordinance that conditions the issuance of new land-permits.  Specifically, the ordinance requires shoreline landowners to dedicate a certain portion of their land as a conservation area in order to obtain a land-use permit. NFIB argues that this is a violation of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment Takings Clause, which requires the government to provide just compensation when taking private property for public use.  

NFIB is extremely concerned with government attempts to claim private property. In the fall, the Small Business Legal Center asked the Supreme Court to review a similar case.  The case of California Building Industry Association v. San Jose challenged a San Jose law that forced developers to dedicate certain units to the City’s stock of affordable housing units. Unfortunately the Supreme Court declined to hear this case.   

“In recent years, the Court has had a record of standing up for private property and we hope that the Justices recognize the danger posed by this government extortion scheme,” said Harned. “The limit to what government can require of small businesses in the name of the public good needs to be maintained.”

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