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Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

    Brief Fact Summary. This case involves two moratoria ordered by respondent Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) to maintain the status quo while studying the impact of development on Lake Tahoe and designing a strategy for environmentally sound growth.  As a result of the two directives nearly all development on a substantial portion of the property subject to TRPA’s jurisdiction was prohibited for a period of 32 months.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. In order to determine if a temporary taking has occurred “requires careful examination and weighing of all the relevant circumstances.” 

    Facts. This case involves two moratoria ordered by respondent Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) to maintain the status quo while studying the impact of development on Lake Tahoe and designing a strategy for environmentally sound growth.  As a result of the two directives nearly all development on a substantial portion of the property subject to TRPA’s jurisdiction was prohibited for a period of 32 months.

    The beautiful, clear lake Tahoe faced an upsurge of development in the area causing “increased nutrient loading of the lake largely because of the increase in impervious coverage of land in the Basin resulting from that development.”  To combat this problem actions were taken and eventually TRPA adopted Resolution 83-21 “which completely suspended all project reviews and approvals, including the acceptance of new proposals,” effectively prohibiting all construction on sensitive lands in California and on all SEZ lands in the entire basin for 32 months, and on sensitive lands in Nevada for 8 months.

    The plaintiffs argue that the law denies them the use of their land and constitute a takings under the 5th and 14th amendment, entitling them to just compensation.

    Issue. Whether a moratorium on development imposed during the process of devising a comprehensive land-use plan constitutes a per se taking of property requiring compensation under the Takings Clause of the 5th Amendment (as applied to the States through the 14th amendment) of the United States Constitution. 

    Held. The court found that the moratorium did not constitute a taking and rejected the petitioners per se rule, and held that a temporary taking “requires careful examination and weighing of all the relevant circumstances.”  The moratorium at issue is classified as a regulation of property from private use which does not require compensation. 

    Discussion. The court does not hold that the temporary nature of a land-use restriction precludes finding that it effects a taking; simply recognizes that it should not be given exclusive significance one way or the other.  The extreme categorical rule that any deprivation of all economic use, no matter how brief, constitutes a compensable taking cannot be sustained (i.e. normal delays in obtaining building permits, changes in zoning ordinances etc.). 


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