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Tahoe-Sierra Pres. Council v. Tahoe Reg'l Planning Agency

Supreme Court of the United States

January 7, 2002, Argued ; April 23, 2002, Decided

No. 00-1167

Opinion

 [**1470]  [***530]  [*306]    JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

 The question presented is 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 United States Constitution. 1 This case actually involves two moratoria ordered by respondent Tahoe Regional  [***531]  Planning [****9]  Agency (TRPA) to maintain the status quo while studying the impact of development on Lake Tahoe and designing a strategy for environmentally sound growth. The first, Ordinance 81-5, was effective from August 24, 1981, until August 26, 1983, whereas the second more restrictive Resolution 83-21 was in effect from August 27, 1983, until April 25, 1984. As a result of these two directives, virtually all development on a substantial portion of the property subject to TRPA's jurisdiction was prohibited for a period of 32 months. Although the question we decide relates only to that 32-month period, a brief description of the events leading up to the moratoria and a comment on the two permanent  [*307]  plans that TRPA adopted thereafter will clarify the narrow scope of our holding.

 

 [****10]  I

The relevant facts are undisputed. The Court of Appeals, while reversing the District Court on a question of law, accepted all of its findings of fact, and no party challenges those findings. All agree that Lake Tahoe is "uniquely beautiful," [Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Reg'l Planning Agency,] 34 F. Supp. 2d 1226, 1230 (Nev. 1999), that President Clinton was right to call it a "'national treasure that must be protected and preserved,'" ibid. and that Mark  [**1471]  Twain aptly described the clarity of its waters as "'not merely transparent, but dazzlingly, brilliantly so,'" ibid. (emphasis added) (quoting M. Twain, Roughing It 174-175 (1872)).

 Lake Tahoe's exceptional clarity is attributed to the absence of algae that obscures the waters of most other lakes. Historically, the lack of nitrogen and phosphorous, which nourish the growth of algae, has ensured the transparency of its waters. 2 Unfortunately, the lake's pristine state has deteriorated rapidly over the past 40 years; increased land development in the Lake Tahoe Basin (Basin) has threatened the "'noble sheet of blue water'" beloved by Twain and countless others. 34 F. Supp. 2d at 1230. As the District Court found, "dramatic decreases in clarity [****11]  first began to be noted in the 1950's/early 1960's, shortly after development at the lake began in earnest." Id. at 1231. The lake's unsurpassed beauty, it seems, is the wellspring of its undoing.

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535 U.S. 302 *; 122 S. Ct. 1465 **; 152 L. Ed. 2d 517 ***; 2002 U.S. LEXIS 3028 ****; 70 U.S.L.W. 4260; 2002 Cal. Daily Op. Service 3495; 10 A.L.R. Fed. 2d 681; 32 ELR 20627; 54 ERC (BNA) 1129; 15 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 203

TAHOE-SIERRA PRESERVATION COUNCIL, INC., ET AL., PETITIONERS v. TAHOE REGIONAL PLANNING AGENCY ET AL.

Prior History:  [****1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.

Disposition: 216 F.3d 764, affirmed.

CORE TERMS

regulation, moratorium, temporary, deprivation, moratoria, landowner, Compact, cases, petitioners', categorical, district court, Lake, parcel, regulatory taking, Ordinance, permanent, appropriation, effected, economically beneficial, regional plan, zoning, land-use, Coal, ban, planning, private property, restrictions, leasehold, lasted, state property

Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Eminent Domain & Takings, Real Property Law, Eminent Domain Proceedings, Elements, Just Compensation, General Overview, Constitutional Limits & Rights, Public Use, Inverse Condemnation, Constitutional Issues, Procedures, Regulatory Takings, Remedies, Energy & Utilities Law, Pipelines & Transportation, Eminent Domain Proceedings, Estates, Present Estates, Fee Simple Estates, Just Compensation, Property Valuation, Environmental Law, Land Use & Zoning, Governments, Courts, Judges, Defenses, The Judiciary, Case or Controversy, Ripeness, Business & Corporate Compliance, Real Property Law, Zoning, Variances