CPR Archive for John Echeverria

The Murr Case: Of Lot Mergers and the Future of Land Use Regulation

by John Echeverria | March 15, 2017

On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a seemingly minor zoning case, Murr v. State of Wisconsin. In reality, the case involves a fundamental challenge to public authority to protect our communities and private property. In particular, if the Court were to rule in favor of petitioners, it would make it vastly more difficult for communities to compel large-scale developers to comply with zoning and other land use laws.

Here’s the back story. In 1972, the Secretary of the Interior approved a request by the Governors of Wisconsin and Minnesota to include the Lower St. Croix River in the national Wild and Scenic Rivers system based on its outstanding scenic and recreational values. Despite this national designation, state and local land use agencies control development along the river’s banks. The Murr case arises from the efforts by St. Croix County, Wisconsin, to protect the scenic banks of the Lower St. Croix River from overdevelopment and, more specifically, the application of an obscure “lot merger” zoning rule.

More than 50 years ago, prior to the Wild and Scenic designation, Margaret and William Murr purchased a small building lot on the Wisconsin side of the river, conveyed ownership of the lot to the family plumbing company, and built a small cabin on the lot. A few years later the Murrs bought a second lot next door to their first lot in their own names. Ever since, the Murr family ...

The Horne Case and the Public Trust in Wildlife

by John Echeverria | April 29, 2015
Who could have imagined that the takings case of Horne v Department of Agriculture argued in the Supreme Court last week might portend revival of the doctrine of public trust ownership of wildlife?  But it might. Really. The Horne case involves a claim that an arcane raisin-marketing program administered by the Department of Agriculture effects a taking by requiring raisin growers, in certain years, to turn over a portion of their crop to the government in order to keep raisin prices high.   While there ...

In Horne v. Department of Agriculture, SCOTUS to Wade into Complicated Nest of Takings Issues

by John Echeverria | March 13, 2013
Next Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case of Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture – a complicated and relatively little-noticed case that could have important implications for the direction of “takings” doctrine and, in turn, for how far judges wielding this doctrine may intrude upon the policy-making functions of the elected branches.  To understand the case, it is useful to analogize the issues in the case to a set of Russian nested dolls. The issue representing ...

The Muddy Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Case

by John Echeverria | September 25, 2012
The most interesting issues to watch in Arkansas Game and Fish Commission v. United States, which the Supreme Court will hear next week on October 3, are ones the parties have not addressed.  The central issue in the case as framed by the principal briefs is whether a temporary increase in the frequency of inundation of floodplain property as a result of government action should give rise to liability under the Takings Clause.  But there are two other  -- arguably ...

In Stop the Beach Renourishment Ruling, Conservatives Come up One Vote Short in Quest to Remake Property Rights Law

by John Echeverria | June 17, 2010
If further proof were needed that appointments to the Supreme Court matter, it was provided today by the Court’s decision in Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The so-called conservative wing of the Court came one vote short of issuing a decision that would have revolutionized the law of property rights in the United States. The case involved the facially implausible claim by several coastal property owners along Florida’s panhandle that they suffered a “taking” ...

The Florida Beach Case Comes to Supreme Court: A Badly Flawed Test Case for Property Rights Advocates

by John Echeverria | November 30, 2009
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection. By the time they finish hearing from both sides, the justices may wonder whether this case was worth their time and effort. (My amicus brief on the case is here). Petitioner is a small non-profit organization whose members own coastal properties in two communities along the Florida panhandle. Petitioner’s primary argument is that its members suffered “takings” of their ...

Also from John Echeverria

John Echeverria is Professor of Law at Vermont Law School.

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