All in the Name of Capturing Natural Value
A Legal Blow to Sustainable Development
The decision in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District makes it hard for communities to get property owners to pay to mitigate any environmental damage they may cause. This 2013 excerpt is from the New York Times, June 26.
By John D. EcheverriaIn a 5-to-4 decision, with Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. writing for the majority, the US Supreme Court sided with Coy A. Koontz Sr. against a Florida water management district. Koontz wanted to fill more than three acres of wetlands; the district wanted him to reduce the size of the project or spend money on any of a variety of wetlands-restoration projects. Koontz claimed that constituted a “taking”.
The decision will very likely encourage local government officials to avoid any discussion with developers related to permit conditions that, in the end, might have let both sides find common ground on building projects that are good for the community and environmentally sound. Rather than risk a lawsuit through an attempt at compromise, many municipalities will simply reject development applications outright — or, worse, accept development plans they shouldn’t.
The court in Koontz has cast the burden on the government to justify fees. Many communities impose development-impact fees on developers if, e.g., a proposed project would require expanding waste-disposal sites or building new ones. Now developers have a new legal tool to challenge such charges.
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JJS: Why shouldn’t an owner develop hers land? How else can s/he profit from it? Except by selling to some other developer? In today’s world, those are the owner's only choices. And taking them away, obviously, proves difficult.
What society needs to do instead is to create a systemically new way to profit from land. What would that look like? Like this. Instead of an owner only getting the profit only from hers site, all the residents in the region would get an equal share from all the value of all the sites. Residents would pay in land dues, but get back “rent” shares from all the dues paid in by owners of land. Homeowners, farmers, shop owners, factory owners, forest owners, mine owners, holders of licenses to frequencies in the EM spectrum, people letting their pollutants loose into the environment, and many others would all pay dues for claiming or owning or using some part of the natural world. It’s a lot of money and it’d be dividend among the residents in the region.
So, instead of profit from hers building and hers location, one would profit from one’s building and from all the locations in the region. Because land dues drive down land prices, and mortgages would be smaller, many landowners might actually come out ahead in this geonomic system. Even if not, they’d come close, and the natural world would be much better off, a boon to all living things.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .
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