April 27, 2017

PLF asks Supreme Court to hear massive beach land grab case

By J. David Breemer Senior Attorney

This week, Pacific Legal Foundation attorneys filed a Petition for Certiorari asking the United States Supreme Court to review the case of Nies v. Town of Emerald Isle, discussed more here.  The Petition presents the important question of “whether the Takings Clause permits a state to statutorily redefine an entire coastline of privately owned dry beach parcels as a “public trust” area open for public use, without just compensation?”

As this blog explained here, and here, this case arising from the Town of Emerald Isle’s enactment of ordinances allowing the public and town officials to use the Nies’ privately owned dry beach land, without any compensation.

The state courts held the Town’s actions did not amount to an unconstitutional taking because they believed  a 1998 state law changed all private dry sand beaches from private land into a “public trust” area open for public driving and access, again with no compensation. Although the Nies argued that this reading of the 1998  state law turned it into an unconstitutional taking, the state courts rejected this position. The state courts’ decision allows North Carolina to re-make an entire coastline of separately divided and owned dry beach parcels into a uniform public trust beach which the public and the government can use and drive on without owner consent or compensation.

The Nies are now asking the Supreme Court to take their case and to confirm that the Constitution does not permit states to use legislation to convert massive areas of private beach land into a public beach area, without just compensation.

learn more about

Nies v. Town of Emerald Isle

The Town of Emerald Isle, North Carolina, passed ordinances allowing the general public and town officials to use the Nies family’s private beach land, without compensating them. State courts upheld these ordinances because they believed a 1998 state law redefined all private dry sand beaches from private land into a “public trust” area open for public driving and access. PLF, representing the landowners, argued that both the ordinance and the state law effected an unconstitutional taking by remaking the entire coastline of separately divided and owned dry beach parcels into a uniform public trust beach which the public and the government can use and drive on without owner consent or compensation. With the state courts unwilling to compensate the property owners, PLF is seeking review in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read more

What to read next