Zito v. North Carolina Coastal Resource Commission; Town of Nags Head

Fighting government’s blurred lines on property rights

Cases > Property Rights > Zito v. North Carolina Coastal Resource Commission; Town of Nags Head
Active: Litigation is ongoing.

All Michael and Cathy Zito wanted to do was rebuild their vacation cottage in Nags Head, North Carolina after fire destroyed it in 2016. But state and local governments denied building permits because the property is now within a no-build zone. The Zitos are left with the only vacant lot in a line of beach homes and can do little more than pitch a tent and camp on their property. Now, the Zitos are fighting back.

In 2008, Michael and Cathy bought a beach cottage in a Nags Head, North Carolina neighborhood. The Zitos live in Maryland and used the cottage as a rental property and family vacation home with their sights set on possibly retiring there one day.

However, the Zitos’ cottage burned down in 2016 after an apparent power surge. Theirs was the only vacant parcel of land in a line of beach homes, but when they tried to rebuild, they learned their lot was within a 60-foot coastal no-build setback zone.

The Zitos first tried to get a variance from the coastal setback requirements from the Town of Nags Head but were denied. The state Coastal Commission also denied the Zitos a permit, leaving tent camping and picnics as the only possible lawful, remaining use for the Zitos’ lot.

Michael and Cathy are fighting back. They’ve filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state and local governments’ decisions to deny the Zitos all use and value of their beach lot as an unlawful property taking under the U.S. and North Carolina Constitutions.

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What’s at stake?

  • If the government wants to make private property useless so the public can enjoy it as open space or a beach area, it must pay the owners just compensation.
  • The government shouldn’t use a natural disaster to justify cleansing an area of development it doesn’t like or want.

Case Timeline

August 10, 2020
March 06, 2019

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