Unlike certain “unalienable rights” granted to citizens under the United States Constitution, property interests are traditionally understood to have been created by a number of independent sources such as statutes, ordinances, or contracts. The general concept of property itself is construed as the group of rights inhering in the citizen’s relation to the physical thing, such as the right to possess, use and dispose of it.

Modern courts, however, acknowledge that the traditional notion of property interests encompass a variety of other valuable interests, such as intangible and incorporeal rights (e.g., leases, easements, right-of-ways, and mortgages) or other uses which extend well beyond the historic norms of property to establish an entirely legitimate claim to certain additional land use entitlements as well.

What is an “Exaction”?

The term “exaction” is when a condition for development is imposed on a parcel of land which requires the developer to mitigate anticipated negative impacts of the development. An exaction may include some sort of mandatory dedication of real property for impact fee payments, sewer or water utility connection fees, or public use of land for a park, school, or transportation facility or expansion anticipated for certain related infrastructure improvements.

The Doctrine of “Unconstitutional Conditions”

More importantly, the legal limitations applied against unlawful government exactions are grounded in a concept that although a particular local governmental entity (or authorizing agency) may have lawfully been granted the authority to deny a proposed use or development of property within its relevant jurisdictional boundaries outright, it is not authorized to approve a particular development or use of such land on an arbitrary or capricious basis.

Following the recent landmark decision in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Mgmt. Dist., 570 U.S. 595 (2013), protections established under both the state and federal constitutions have been expanded to apply in the context of certain land use and zoning decisions requiring local government-imposed exactions or conditions to satisfy the following two (2) legal standards initially articulated by the United States Supreme Court in Nollan v. California Coastal Community, 483 U.S. 825 (1987) and Dolan v. City of Tigard, 512 U.S. 374 (1994):

  • There must be an “essential nexus” between the condition imposed and the original purpose of the restriction; and
  • A “rough proportionality” must exist between the benefit derived from a development condition and the harm caused by the proposed land use.

So What’s the Legal Scoop?

Given that this additional set of constitutional limitations now apply to certain government-imposed exactions which may arise during the local land use and zoning application process, Florida property owners are strongly encouraged to seek the immediate advice and legal counsel of a properly qualified local Land Use & Zoning Attorney to obtain a comfortable understanding of their particular private property rights following the Koontz decision referenced above.

For further information regarding the above-mentioned constitutional protections against unlawful exactions, or any other general questions or concerns that may arise concerning land use and zoning decisions in Florida, please feel free to contact me by phone 239.344.1178 or via email at austin.turner@henlaw.com.