Supreme Court seems divided in ownership dispute

(REUTERS/Molly Riley)

WASHINGTON – A divided Supreme Court struggled Monday over a property dispute, which could make it harder for state and local governments to limit development in the coastal areas.

The case concerns a family, the efforts to the sale of part of its riverfront land in Wisconsin. The family planned the money from a vacant lot that you have to pay for improvements in a cabin that sits on the parcel next door.

But the County officials nixed the sale for violations of the conservation of local rules and treated the lot as a single property not be divided. The family says this is unfair, and claims that the government pay to what the undeveloped parcel, it’s value — up to $400,000. The government argues that, when considered as a whole, the country remains very valuable and is due to the family is nothing.

The case dragged has to say of interest to property and business groups, that such rules, the government let the land owners for the restriction of land use. The Constitution requires compensation when regulations take a property’s economic value.

During a one-hour argument, the court has four liberal justices seemed to side with state and local officials, while the conservative judges were in General more skeptical. Justice Anthony Kennedy, often a swing vote in close cases,” asked tough questions of both sides.

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The court’s decision could affect more than 100 cities and counties in the United States that have similar “Fusion” restrictions.

The Murrs’ attorney, John Groen, told the judges that should be seen as “independent, discrete, and separate packages”, because that’s how they were originally, and taxed been developed for years.

But justice Elena Kagan, said the Murrs seem to rely on the state law, as it was originally the property of drew lines, but they ignore the revisions of the law, the treatment of side-to-side a lot as a single package, if they have the same owner.

“If we look to state law, we look to state laws, the whole ball of wax,” said Kagan.

Wisconsin attorney General Misha Tseytlin argued that the two lots “, for all relevant purposes under state law.” He said the state officials as well as the reasonable expectations of the owner.

Chief Justice John Roberts said it seemed “a little quirky,” that the Murrs not the properties can treat separately, but if you had bought them under his own name in “a very different situation.”

The case began in 2004, when the four siblings wanted to sell the family Murr, the brownfield on the banks of the St. Croix River. Her father had bought the two 1.25 acre lot is separately in the 1960s. They were later transferred to his children in the 1990s.

County officials, blocking the point-of-sale to regulations passed in 1976, bar a new building on the land in the area in order to prevent overcrowding and pollution. A “grandfather clause” except for previous owners. But the country does not apply, that the exemption of the Murrs’ empty set alone, as it is with the family of the other country.

A Wisconsin appeals court sided with the County, namely zoning rules, the value of the property, because the Murrs could continue to use both lots as a vacation property or sell it as a whole.

The County argues that a judgment against it would undermine their ability to minimize flood damage and maintain property values in the area. It is argued that the family is treated both parcels as a single lot and says she could build a new home, either much.

Justice Anthony Kennedy criticized the lawyers on both sides. He said that the family ignore the argument seemed to be ” market factors.” But he also said the state should consider “the reasonable investment-backed expectations of the owner.”

The high court took up the case until more than a year ago, but waited several months before planning arguments. Property often split the high court along ideological lines, and the delay prompted speculation that the judges were waiting for a ninth justice, to join them.

But only eight justices heard the case on Monday, the same day that hearings on nominee Neil from gorsuch began for Supreme Court. He was able to sit to be confirmed in time for arguments in April.

A ruling is expected by June.

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