Palm Beach County v. Wright, Supreme Court of Florida (1994)

The dispute concerns a portion of the respondent’s property lying within the Southern Boulevard corridor specified by the County’s thoroughfare map. The thoroughfare map is a portion of the traffic circulation element of the Palm Beach County Comprehensive Plan as adopted in Ordinance 89-17.

Details of the map:
· The map defines transportation corridors, and also designates locations for future roadway construction.
· The map provides that the County, “shall provide for protection and acquisition of existing and future right-of-way”
· Map is designed to protect identified transportation corridors from encroachment by other land use activities, defined but not limited to Residential, Commercial, Institutional, Industrial (pg. 227)
· The land use element of the Comprehensive plan provides that no land use activity may be permitted within any roadway designated on the thoroughfare map that would impede future construction of the roadway.
The map contains a 220-foot right-of-way corridor, which includes Southern Boulevard, an existing roadway in the County (note that since Southern Blvd. is bounded on the south by a canal, the future alignment of the right-of-way would be measured northward from the existing south property line of the roadway). The respondent’s property is on the north side of Southern Blvd. Therefore, a portion of their property lies within the corridor of the thoroughfare map.

The respondents filed suit attacking the constitutionality of the thoroughfare map.

The trial court found that the map was facially unconstitutional and in violation of the Fifth Amendment and article X of the Florida constitution. They reasoned that the map was not a valid use of police power and it did not substantially advance legitimate state interest. Furthermore, the adoption of the map constituted a temporary taking of the respondents’ property and ordered a jury trial for the compensation of the taking.

In a split decision, the Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the trial court agreeing that a taking had occurred and that the thoroughfare map was functionally indistinguishable from the reservation map the Supreme Court declared invalid in Joint Ventures Inc. v. Department of Transportation.

Issue: (as stated in the decision)
Is a County thoroughfare map designating corridors for future roadways and which forbids land use activity that would impede future construction of a roadway, adopted incident to a Comprehensive County Land Use Plan, facially unconstitutional?

Remember: facially unconstitutional vs. as applied unconstitutional

The Supreme Court of Florida held that the thoroughfare map did not constitute a taking and is not facially invalid. The court held that the adoption of the thoroughfare map is the proper subject of the county’s police power, which substantially advances state interest. Furthermore, the County’s ability to plan future growth would be inhibited without a thoroughfare map.

Two previous cases had bearing on the case at hand:

1. In Joint Ventures, Inc. v. Department of Transportation (Fla. 1990), maps of reservation were held invalid. Construction was prohibited within the limits of [state] recorded maps of reservation for the sole purpose of reducing the future acquisition costs of roads by freezing property and depressing land values.

2. In Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority v. A.G.W.S. Corp. (Fla. 1994) the court held that the landowners with property inside the boundaries of maps of reservation invalidated by Joint Ventures, Inc. are not legally entitled to receive per se declarations of taking. The maps of reservation were invalid as it had not followed due process.

Since the filing of a map of reservation did not constitute a per se taking, it is clear that the adoption of the thoroughfare map would not constitute a per se taking.

In regards to the issue of whether the thoroughfare map is facially invalid:

The thoroughfare map differs than the reservations map for several reasons:
1. It limits development to the extent necessary to ensure compatibility with future land use.
2. The road locations on the map have not been fully determined.
3. The County is a permitting authority, which has the flexibility to ameliorate some of the hardships of a person owning land within the corridor.
4. It is an invaluable tool for planning purposes and advances a legitimate state interest.

The taking issue may only be determined upon an individualized basis because the various property owners’ interests will be different and will be affected by the thoroughfare map in a differing manner. Therefore the thoroughfare map must be considered on an “as applied” basis.