January 25, 2014

Coy Koontz, Jr., receives Crystal Eagle Award in New Orleans

By James S. Burling Vice President for Litigation

Coy Koontz, Jr., received the Crystal Eagle Award today from Owners Counsel of America, an organization of distinguished eminent domain attorneys who specialize in representing landowners eaglethroughout the nation.  Presented by PLF’s Robert Thomas from Hawaii and myself at OCA’s annual meeting in New Orleans, Coy received his award for his perseverance and courage in standing up for his property rights — traits that led to last year’s Supreme Court victory.  The only person missing was Coy Koontz, Sr., who passed away in 2000 after beginning the family’s challenge to the actions of the St. Johns Water Management District in 1994.  What makes the Koontz story so special is that instead of giving in to the District’s unconstitutional demands that he pay up to $150,000 to fix district property — after agreeing to to give away 11 acres — Coy Koontz Sr., decided to fight instead.  Our constitutional rights would not be worth the parchment they were written on if citizens were not willing to stand up and fight.  Coy Koontz Jr., is a fighter, carrying on the work begun by his father nearly 20 years ago.  The Crystal Eagle Award is a well-deserved tribute.Koontz receives award

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St. Johns River Water Management District v. Koontz

Coy A. Koontz sought to develop commercial land, most of which lies within a riparian habitat protection zone in Orange County, Florida. He applied for a dredge and fill permit with the St. Johns Water Management District, which  agreed to grant the permit only on the condition that he place a conservation easement over his land, and perform mitigation off-site by replacing culverts and plugging certain drainage canals on distant District-owned properties. When Koontz refused to perform the off-site mitigation, St. Johns denied the permit. PLF successfully represented Koontz before the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that a land-use agency cannot condition a permit on the payment of a mitigation fee to be used to pay for facilities that have no connection to the impacts of the permitted development.

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