Lucas filed suit
Contending that the Beachfront Management Act's construction bar
effected a taking of his property without just compensation.
Contending that the Act's complete extinguishment of his
property's value entitled him to compensation regardless of
whether the legislature had acted in furtherance of legitimate
police power objectives.
The Court Agreed
Zoned as single family residence
The court found that "at the time Lucas purchased the two lots,
both were zoned for single-family residential construction and .
. . there were no restrictions imposed upon such use of the
property by either the State of South Carolina, the County of
Charleston, or the Town of the Isle of Palms."
The trial court further found that this prohibition "deprived
Lucas of any reasonable economic use of the lots, eliminated the
unrestricted right of use, and rendered them valueless."
The court thus concluded that Lucas's properties had been
"taken" by operation of the Act, and it ordered respondent to
pay "just compensation" in the amount of $1,232,387.50.
Supreme Court of South Carolina
The court ruled that when a regulation respecting the use of
property is designed "to prevent serious public harm," no
compensation is ow[ed] under the Takings Clause regardless of
the regulation's effect on the property's value.
Supreme Court of the United States
Two Categories requiring Compensation
The first encompasses regulations that
compel the property owner to
suffer a physical "invasion" of his property.
In general (at least with regard to permanent invasions), no
matter how minute the intrusion, and no matter how weighty the
public purpose behind it, we have required compensation.
Loretto v. Teleprompter Manhattan CATV Corp.
We determined that New York's law requiring landlords to allow
television cable companies to emplace cable facilities in their
apartment buildings constituted a taking, even though the
facilities occupied at most only 1 1/2 cubic feet of the
United States v. Causby
Physical invasions of airspace
Kaiser Aetna v. United States
Imposition of navigational servitude upon private marina.
The second situation in which we have found categorical
treatment appropriate is where regulation
denies all economically
beneficial or productive use of land.
Regulations that press private property into a public service
When the owner of real property has been called upon to
sacrifice all economically beneficial uses in the name of the
common good, that is, to leave his property economically idle,
he has suffered a taking.
South Carolinas Arg
South Carolina's shores is an extremely valuable public
resource; that the erection of new construction, inter alia,
contributes to the erosion and destruction of this public
resource; and that discouraging new construction in close
proximity to the beach/dune area is necessary to prevent a great
Harm-preventing vs. Benefit-conferring
given restraint will be seen as mitigating "harm" to the
adjacent parcels or securing a "benefit" for them, depending
upon the observer's evaluation of the relative importance of the
use that the restraint favors.
Difficult, if not impossible to discern.
- Noxious-Use Justification Not Enough
noxious-use justification cannot be the basis for departing from
our categorical rule that total regulatory takings must be
compensated. If it were, departure would virtually always be
It would Nullify Mahon limit on police power
The South Carolina Supreme Court's approach
would essentially nullify
Mahon's affirmation of limits to the noncompensable exercise of
the police power.
Harmful use Logic
Our cases provide no support for this:
None of the [cases] that employed the logic of "harmful use"
prevention to sustain a regulation involved an allegation that
the regulation wholly eliminated the value of the claimant's
Rule - To resist
It may resist compensation ONLY IF the logically antecedent
[preceding] inquiry into the nature of the owner's estate shows
that the proscribed use interests were not part of his title to
Loretto v. Teleprompter Manhattan CATV Corp.
Where "permanent physical occupation" of land is concerned, we
have refused to allow the government to decree it anew (without
compensation), no matter how weighty the asserted "public
interests" involved, though we assuredly would permit the
government to assert a permanent easement that was a
pre-existing limitation upon the landowner's title.
Must have compensation
Any limitation so severe cannot be newly legislated or decreed
(without compensation), but must inhere in the title itself, in
the restrictions that background principles of the State's law
of property and nuisance already place upon land ownership.
What is allowed?
Prohibited a lake bed owner from filling in the land and
Requiring a Nuclear plant to remove its facility because its
located on a fault zone.
Eliminates economic use, Does not condemn permissible use under
Such regulatory action may well have the effect of eliminating
the land's only economically productive use, but it does not
proscribe [condemn] a productive use that was previously
permissible under relevant property and nuisance principles.
Rule - When regulation
When a regulation that declares "off-limits" all economically
productive or beneficial uses of land goes beyond what the
relevant background principles would dictate, compensation must
be paid to sustain it.
The degree of harm to public lands and resources, or adjacent
private property, posed by the claimant's proposed activities
The social value of the claimant's activities and their
suitability to the locality in question
The relative ease with which the alleged harm can be avoided
through measures taken by the claimant and the government (or
adjacent private landowners) alike
State may not transform private property into public property
For South Carolina to Win (Spectrum)
It must identify background principles of nuisance and property
law that prohibit the uses he now intends in the circumstances
in which the property is presently found.
Reversed and Remand
DISSENT Justice Blackmun
The court launches a missile to kill a mouse.
If the state legislature is correct that the setback line
prevents serious harm, then the Act is constitutional.
The court has decided that the State Legislature has the burden
to convince the court.
DISSENT Justice Stevens
The courts new rule is wholly arbitrary.
The ruling will greatly hamper the efforts of local officials
and planners who have to deal with complex environment problems.