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A Reminder About Eminent Domain And Government Power

 December 10, 2009 12:00 PM

Last week after the Thanksgiving holidays, the Supreme Court started to hear oral arguments in Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Dep't of Environmental Protection, a case of eminent domain.  This is the biggest case since the court extended the use of eminent domain in the landmark Kelo v. City of New London case in which the Supreme Court sanctioned the seizure of privately-held property to increase jobs, taxes and to decrease urban blight.

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Given the jobs picture and the very dire circumstances facing municipalities, it is not unreasonable to assume that a verdict in favour of eminent domain would lead to more land seizures as municipalities looked for ways to fill their coffers.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the ‘Stop the Beach' case early last week saying:

The case, Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Dep't of Environmental Protection, began in 2003, when home owners in the Florida Panhandle objected to changes in their property lines caused by a "beach renourishment" program. Typically done in the name of deterring erosion, the government carts in truckloads of sand, making the beach bigger. But rather than extending the property of the owner, the state declares itself owner of the sandy addition, effectively separating waterfront home owners from the water itself.

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The Florida Supreme Court ruled 5-2 for the state and claimed the program doesn't mean the state can go around "creating as much dry land between upland property and the water as it pleases." There's a point, they said, at which such beach additions would represent an unconstitutional taking.

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