U.S. Supreme Court Denies to Hear New "Takings" Case

October 16, 2006 | Roger McEowen

 

On October 16, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider a significant new issue on the government's power to demand civic contributions from real estate developers as a condition for granting permits to build new projects. The case was from the state of Washington and tested whether the Constitution puts limits on local officials' power to impose fees on new projects to offset the cost of added public services. In the case, the developers claimed that a city's "impact fee" ordinance failed to comply with the state's impact fee statute and was not tailored to the actual impact of the proposed apartment project on traffic flows. The specific issue in the case was whether the Constitution requires that any such fees must be based only upon an individual project's actual impact on public services, and must be "proportional" in size to the specific impact of the project. The Washington Court of Appeals ruled for the developers, but the Washington Supreme Court reversed on the basis that the state statute did not require the city to calculate the impact fee by making individualized assessments of the new development's direct impact on each improvement planned in a particular area. The U.S. Supreme Court has now declined to consider whether such "impact fee" statutes are unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment. City of Olympia v. Drebick, 156 Wash.2d 289 (2006), cert. den., No. 06-223, 2006 U.S. LEXIS 7985 (U.S. Oct. 16, 2006).