The Supreme Court held that when land-use and environmental regulations deprive property owners of the total value of their land, the owners have a takings clause claim unless the governmental authority can defend the regulations as necessary to prevent a public harm or nuisance.

In 1986 David Lucas purchased two oceanfront parcels on the Isle of Palms with the intention of constructing single-unit residences. In 1988, however, the state legislature enacted a statute that barred Lucas from erecting permanent structures on his parcels. Lucas filed suit, contending that the ban on construction deprived him of all “economically viable use” of his property and therefore constituted a taking under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, requiring payment of just compensation. The state’s highest court, relying on Keystone Bituminous Coal Association v. DeBenedictis[case]Keystone Bituminous Coal Association v. DeBenedictis[Keystone Bituminous Coal Association v. DeBenedictis] (1987), ruled in favor of the state.Takings clause;Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council[Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council]

By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the state courts to decide whether Lucas had been deprived of all the economic value of his property and whether the building restriction had been designed to prevent a “harmful or noxious use” of the land. Speaking for the majority, Justice Antonin ScaliaScalia, Antonin;Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council[Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council] insisted that the government had to do more than simply show that the regulation was in the “public interest.” At the same time, Scalia held that the takings clause applies only to situations in which property owners are deprived of all the economic value of their property. Because most land-use and environmental regulations do not deprive property owners of all economic value, the Lucas decision does not protect many property owners.

Dolan v. City of Tigard

Keystone Bituminous Coal Association v. DeBenedictis

Nollan v. California Coastal Commission

Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon

Property rights

Takings clause