The Arnold and Marilyn Hansen Story.
 In 1979, Arnold and Marilyn Hansen purchased a four-acre parcel of property near Snohomish, Washington for $55,000 to develop the property for commercial use. The plan seemed a good one for, by 1986, the value of the land for commercial development had increased to $280,000. But thanks to local wetlands regulations, the Hansens' property is now virtually worthless.

When the Hansens purchased the property they obtained a permit to grade and fill a lowland area on the site. They did not immediately fill the lowland, however, because proposed highway construction next to the land would provide the extra fill dirt. That decision to wait to fill the lowland proved significant. Over the years, that low area received run-off from development on surrounding properties. In 1987, Snohomish County determined that the vast majority of the Hansens' property should permanently serve as a water retention basin for the run-off from developed properties. Of the 170,000 square feet the Hansens owned, the county said they could only develop 7,200 square feet - a mere four percent of their land.

The Hansens could only build one single-family home on a small upland area of the property. But this was not a viable option as the parcel fronted a major road with a 50-mile-per-hour speed limit and was located next to several commercial businesses such as a diesel truck repair facility and farm implement dealer - hardly an attractive location for a home.

In 1987, the Hansens filed a lawsuit seeking compensation from the county in Washington Superior Court. The Hansens provided undisputed expert testimony that the cost of building the house would exceed the amount it could be sold for, rebutting the county's claim that their property was still economically viable. Nevertheless, after years of legal wrangling, the judge ruled for the county in 1997 claiming that simply allowing a house was sufficient to avoid a regulatory taking claim.

The Hansens have appealed the decision to a state court of appeals.
Source: Pacific Legal Foundation