Land Use and Local Government Law and Litigation

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3d DCA gets Right Result but Wrong Analysis in Facial v As Applied Taking Case

In Collins et al v Monroe County, the 3d DCA absolutely correctly overturned a trial court decision on summary judgment that held that a takings challenge was a "facial challenge" and was untimely filed based on the 4 year statute of limitations.

The problem is that in the process, the court totally mangled the difference between a "categorical" taking and an "balancing test" taking, confusing them with facial vs. as applied takings. The Court held that a challenge based on the deprivation of "all economic use" of the property was a facial taking and would be subject to the four year statute from the time of adoption, but that these were claims of substantial deprivation of value and the time ran from the final application:

In an as-applied claim, the landowner challenges the regulation in the
context of a concrete controversy specifically regarding the impact of the
regulation on a particular parcel of property. Taylor, 659 So. 2d at 1167. The
standard of proof for an as-applied taking is whether there has been a
substantial deprivation of economic use or reasonable investment-backed
expectations. See generally Penn Central Transp. v. City of New York, 438 U.S.
104 (1978) (considering the economic impact of the regulation on the claimant,
the extent to which the regulation has interfered with distinct investment-backed expectations, and the character of the government action; diminution in the property value alone cannot establish a taking); Taylor, 659 So. 2d at 1167. The question presented is whether the record shows that the Landowners were deprived by the enactment of the 2010 Comprehensive Plan of all economic use of their property, which amounts to a facial taking, or were deprived of substantial use of their property, but left with some economic value, which is an as-applied taking.

Emphasis added.

The problem is that the court's analysis here is totally wrong: a "categorical" Lucas-type claim that a regulation has deprived the landowner of all economic use is almost never a facial claim, nor can it be under the ripeness requirements that the Court discusses later in the opinion.

Here, the application of Monroe County's comp plan and ldr was at issue. On their face, they preclude development in huge areas of the county and require compliance with strict "rate of growth" requirements that preclude even individual building permits for existing lots. But the ordinance has an entire administrative process for both vested rights and for what amounts to an administrative determination that a taking will occur if rights aren't given, with recommendations to either grant a permit or buy the property.

With particular respect to the whole Monroe County regulatory scheme, courts have held that the availability of this remedy precludes takings claims until or unless the process is followed. They also have held that no temporary or permanent taking can occur until after the completion of the process. So the ripeness and other doctrines effectively preclude a facial challenge to the ordinances (and most land use lawyers knew this) .

The core distinctions are categorical takings, which do not require a demonstration of the value of the property taken or remaining in order to demonstrate the taking, and "balancing" type tests where the financial or economic impact must be assessed against the property as a whole.

Which then gets you to the different sub-causes of action under a takings theory:

1. Illegal conditions (Nollan/Dolan) on a development permit or application that require an exaction. This clearly requires a property-specific application, but it is a categorical type taking in that if the exaction is not proportional to the impacts created, it is a taking regardless of the effects on the value of the property as a whole However, the essence of this claim is that the government assessed the exaction against a particular proposal, so it is always as-applied.

- Note these distinctions were behind the whole highway reservation as a takings fight in the early 90s. One decision held that the reservation statute, which prohibited all development within reservation areas designated next to state roads, was unconstitutional because it "took" property (the right to use the reserved area) without making any provision for compensation. Later cases clarified that even if such statutes are unconstitutional, there are not actual "takings" of property until or unless the reservation is applied to a particular property so as to deny particular uses and the government refuses to either vary the prohibition or pay compensation.

2. Illegal violation of the right to exclude/imposed right to use (Loretto Teleprompter) - an ordinance or statute that allows another person or the government to use your property (like to hang cable television) is a forced grant of easement or license - this is a "categorical" taking in that it doesn't require a demonstration of the value of the right 'taken' or the remaining rights in the property. However, there is not taking until someone takes advantage of the ordinance or statute, so it almost always an as-applied claim.

3. The Lucas case: total taking of all economic use . This is a "categorical" taking because if all use is removed, the relative burden is irrelevant, but it is an as-applied test. If a regulation prevents ANY use of property, it is a taking. However, in almost any conceivable situation in order to prove that it does that, a landowner would have to apply to use the property and be denied, or to try to get some administrative determination of rights (as here) and be told there are none. So ripeness and damages issues almost always will make this an as-applied challenge.

The big and still unresolved issue in these cases has to do with "use" versus "non-use" value: what if all use is prohibited, but the land has some use to someone other than the owner, perhaps as open space, or as a beach access, or some other function that is totally accessory to a separate parcel. Under the strict language of Lucas, and one critical footnote, the focus is on the value created by the use of the property by the owner, and the potential for some value to the property in its sale or passive use by another would not count. But that isn't followed in a number of cases.

4. Penn Central Balancing -- This is the general and difficult case where there are some uses left to a property, but they are significantly limited in a way that so limits "legitimate, investment backed expectations" so as to create a taking (along with several other considerations described in the opinion). It always is an "as applied" challenge, because it is the particular effect of the regulation on the particular facts of the property and expectations of the owner that are at issue.
The 3d DCA opinion is simply mind-blowingly wrong and perverse: if you claim that an ordinance deprives you of all economic use, you can only raise that within four years of adoption, even if you haven't actually had it applied to your property so you can prove it.

This opinion would create a situation where the government was better off getting someone into the application process and then - four years later- adopting an interpretation that the owner couldn't use the property at all than if the government allowed some (but not much) use of the property.

One can only hope that this will get corrected, and quickly.

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