By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog
KOONTZ JR.: Proposed legislation would add a layer of protection to the Koontz family’s property rights victory.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida family’s 20-year battle to build on their own land remains unresolved, but their efforts to fight excessive government permitting costs have given property rights advocates and land developers something to cheer about.
Now, for the second year in a row, Florida lawmakers could give them all something to hang their hats on.
A pair of recently filed bills would prohibit local governments from imposing taxes, fees or other penalties against private property owners for use in unrelated government projects.
The practice was common in most states until this past summer, when the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Koontz family in their longtime fight against a Central Florida water management agency. The decision redefined permitting rules nationwide, but sent the Koontz case back to the Florida high court for further review.
Coy Koontz Sr. tried to build on less than a third of his 15-acre property in 1994, but he was told he had to pay $150,000 for a wetlands project miles away from his land.
He offered to deed the remaining 11 acres to the regional water management authority instead, but that wasn’t enough. Koontz Sr. died in 2000. His son Coy Koontz Jr. continued the fight.
“When we look at what Koontz was doing, he was developing a small parcel in an already highly developed neighborhood,” Larry Salzman, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, told Watchdog.org after the ruling. ”The idea that he should pay what amounts to more than the value of the project he is trying to develop was just disproportionate to its impact.”
The proposed legislation would negate permitting costs charged by city and county authorities if they exceed the costs determined by state or federal agencies.
Critics say the permitting changes would increase litigation and undermine environmental conservation efforts. Local permitting offices could also deny land development applications out of hand.
The pending bills allow permitting fees as long as they are roughly proportionate to the development projects.
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