College of Liberal Arts
Political Science Department
BA in Political Science
Matthew Jude Egan
With each passing year, Cambria, California's building moratorium becomes increasingly controversial. The moratorium, enacted by the local community services district in 1986 due to a series of water shortages, has resulted in nearly 43% of all property owners under the district's purview to be denied the ability to develop their parcels. This paper seeks to examine the constitutionality of this moratorium using relevant regulatory takings jurisprudence.
Reviewing United States Supreme Court precedent, including Pennsylvania Coal v. Mahon (1922), Penn Central Transport v. New York City (1978), Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council (1992), and Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council v. Tahoe Regional Planning Authority (2002), it is concluded that a determination of takings may ultimately rest on an individual case-by-case inquiry by the Court. However, if it can be proven that the regulation results in a total diminution of value for a parcel, or that it threatens a property's reasonable rate of return, then the litigating parties may have a claim that a compensable regulatory taking has been effected and just compensation is required.
The question to be decided by the Court is whether a regulation deprives a property owner of all economically beneficial uses of their property. If the answer to this question is yes, then compensation will likely be required; if the answer is no, then compensation is unlikely to be required. Nevertheless, the Court ultimately proves hesitant to establish any per se rules regarding regulatory takings, and instead prefers individualized ad hoc and fact-driven inquiries to decide whether a taking has occurred.
This paper also introduces a number of ancillary issues that may prove to be potential legal liabilities for the Cambria Community Services District. The most notable issue regards the temporal nature of the moratorium, and whether it can be legitimately considered temporary despite being in place for nearly thirty years.
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