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Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council

From lawbrain.com

Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003 (1992), is a property law case heard by the United States Supreme Court in which the “total takings” test was created to determine whether a regulatory action amounted to a taking requiring compensation.

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Contents

Summary of Case Facts

Lucas, in 1986, paid $975,000 for two beachfront lots in South Carolina.  He intended to develop the lots into residential property.  In 1988, South Carolina passed the Beachfront Management Act which caused increased regulations on the development of beachfront property to be put into place.  Before committing beachfront property to new uses in South Carolina, a permit must be obtained from the South Carolina Coastal Council.  The new regulation, passed in 1988, essentially barred Lucas from building any permanent structures on his lots.  Lucas filed suit, asserting that the new restrictions imposed effectively rendered his property worthless, and as such was a taking without compensation.  The lower court agreed with Lucas and awarded him over $1.2 million.  The state of South Carolina appealed and the Supreme Court of South Carolina reversed.  This appeal was heard by the United States Supreme Court. 

Issue

Can a governmental regulation’s effect constitute a taking of private property requiring just compensation?

Holding and Law

Yes.  The United State Supreme Court opined that a regulation can amount to a taking under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments requiring just compensation. The court stated that when a regulation deprives an owner of all economically beneficial uses of land that it constitutes a taking.  The only way a regulation would not constitute a taking would be if it proscribed a use that didn’t apply to the property to begin with. In this case, Lucas's property was essentially worthless - the right to build upon it that he had prior to the regulation had been taken away.

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