In Virginia, A Property Rights Win For The Little Guy

May 31, 2002 -- Virginia landowner John Taylor can finally build a house on his land – without having to contend with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) demands that amounted to an uncompensated, unconstitutional taking of his property.

Since 1998 the FWS had not allowed Taylor to build on his lot in Alexandria, Virginia, because of the possible impacts that construction could have on a bald eagle’s nest not located on his property. The FWS said it would issue an Endangered Species Act (ESA) permit only if Taylor paid for the construction of an eagle nesting platform and an educational exhibit located several miles away from the site or paid for a project to replenish fish stocks in the Potomac River basin for the eagles’ food supply.

Taylor refused, and with funding and legal assistance from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the Defenders of Property Rights he brought suit in federal court, arguing that the FWS conditions were an unconstitutional taking of his property under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In 1999, Mr. Taylor survived a motion to dismiss the case when the U.S. Court of Federal Claims found that Taylor‘s case was ready for further review.

On May 21, 2002 the FWS finally settled the matter by agreeing that Mr. Taylor can build his house. As part of the settlement, the FWS will issue the permit Taylor sought, pay Taylor damages for the temporary taking of his property for the four years he could not build and pay Taylor’s attorney fees.

“This is truly a win for the `little guy’ and property owners like John Taylor looking for fairness in how we regulate land use in this country,” said NAHB President Gary Garczynski, a builder/developer from Woodbridge, Virginia.

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