GIVE A LITTLE,
TAKE A LITTLE
The James and Kathy Saboff Story
When James and Kathy Saboff purchased a parcel of Florida
waterfront property to build a house, they had no idea the
transaction would mark the beginning of a tortuous property
rights dispute that would take 14 years to resolve.
There was nothing extraordinary about the Saboffs' land. It
simply was the last undeveloped lot in a residential
subdivision. But in 1989, when they applied for a permit to
build their house, the St. Johns Water Management District told
them they could only build the house if they agreed to dedicate
half of their property to a conservation easement. Although the
district board later voted to ease the restriction on the
Saboffs, environmental groups, including the Audubon Society,
successfully appealed the decision. As a result, the Saboffs
could not disturb most of their property lying between their
house and the river. Unlike all of their neighbors, the Saboffs
were prevented from clearing and using their own backyard.
The Saboffs filed a lawsuit against the St. Johns Water
Management District claiming that its decision constituted a
regulatory taking. A Florida trial court dismissed the Saboffs'
claim, ruling that they could only get compensation if they were
deprived of "all economically viable use" of the property.
Undeterred, the Saboffs appealed the trial court decision to a
state appeals court which ruled against them in 1996.
The Saboffs then filed a suit in federal district court which
finally gave them the relief they had long sought. The court
ruled that the Saboffs were owed compensation for a partial
regulatory taking and awarded damages for violations of their
rights to due process and equal protection. The jury awarded the
couple $100,100 for the regulatory taking of more than half of
their property. It also awarded them $14,000 because the
district treated them unfairly compared to the other residents
of the neighborhood.
Source: Florida Legal Foundation
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