Cost of violating property rights
Yesterday, the Daytona Beach News-Journal ran my op-ed about the St. Johns River Water Management District’s attempt to take Coy Koontz’s property by way of an extortionate permit demand. The article relates a troubling conversation that occurred in the course of the conflict:
“If you want Mr. Koontz’s land, why don’t you simply pay him for it?” Koontz’s attorney asked a cadre of St. Johns River Management District representatives.
To Koontz’s astonishment, one of the government agency’s attorneys said, “Why should we pay him for it when we can just take it from him?”
Coy Koontz Jr. has shared this story many times since. But despite the district’s dogged attempts, after 22 years of litigation and a trip to the Supreme Court of the United States, the government paid for the time it illegally denied Koontz the use of his land. The government thought it could take Koontz’s property rights without paying anything. Indeed, it almost succeeded.