Twenty-Year Battle Over

April 24, 2002

Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

Inman News Features

Mark one up for environmentalists in the continuing saga over property rights.

The Supreme Court has ruled 6-3 in favor of a growth moratorium in the case of the Tahoe Sierra Preservation Council verses the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

The Court ruled that the TRPA "used sound judgment when it imposed a 32-month moratorium on building in the region in the early 1980s," according to press release issued by the TRPA.

The case began in 1984 when a lawsuit was filed by a group of landowners who argued that the temporary ban on building constituted a "taking" of their land. The litigation spanned two decades and was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court in January for the final decision.

The decision precludes TRPA from having to pay landowners for the 32-month building moratorium.

"Today's Supreme Court ruling will advance sound land-use planning practices nationwide," said TRPA Legal Council John Marshall. "This final decision allows all of us to move forward and focus our efforts on the future, instead of the past. We look forward to our continued work with the community in our mission to preserve this national treasure."

The majority opinion, drafted by Justice John Paul Stevens, focused on the reciprocal benefits all citizens receive when governments plan in a comprehensive fashion. Justice Stevens wrote: "To the extent that communities are forced to abandon using moratoria, landowners will have incentives to develop their property quickly before a comprehensive plan can be enacted, thereby fostering inefficient and ill-conceived growth."

The Supreme Court rejected the landowners automatic liability rule for any delay and instead adopted a ruling that each moratorium must be measured against a set of factors that balances the interests of the community in sound planning with the individual landowners' property rights. The Court concluded that because all lower court decisions had found TRPA's 32-month moratorium to be reasonable in its purpose, scope and duration, TRPA acted in the community's best interest and did not violate any constitutional mandates.

Copyright: Inman News Service

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