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Good v. United States

August 31, 1999


Before Newman, Circuit Judge, Smith, Senior Circuit Judge, and Gajarsa, Circuit Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Smith, Senior Circuit Judge.

Appealed from: United States Court of Federal Claims

Judge James F. Merow

This is a regulatory takings case. Lloyd A. Good, Jr. sued the federal government on the basis that it effectively took his property without just compensation when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied him permission to dredge and fill on land he owns in the Florida Keys. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims granted summary judgment to the United States. Lloyd A. Good, Jr. v. United States, 39 Fed. Cl. 81 (1997). We affirm.


Lloyd A. Good, Jr. ("Good") and his mother purchased a forty-acre tract of undeveloped land on Lower Sugarloaf Key, Florida, in 1973, *fn1 as part of a much larger real estate purchase. The tract, known as Sugarloaf Shores, consists of thirty-two acres of wetlands (a combination of salt marsh and freshwater marsh) and eight acres of uplands. The sales contract for the land stated that:

"The Buyers recognize that certain of the lands covered by this contract may be below the mean high tide line and that as of today there are certain problems in connection with the obtaining of State and Federal permission for dredging and filling operations."

Good's efforts to develop the property began in 1980, when he hired Keycology, Inc., a land planning and development firm, to obtain the federal, state, and county permits necessary to develop Sugarloaf Shores into a residential subdivision. In their contract, Good and Keycology acknowledged that "obtaining said permits is at best difficult and by no means assured."

Good submitted his first permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ("Corps") in March 1981. The Corps permit was required for dredging and filling navigable waters of the United States, including wetlands adjacent to navigable waters, under the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 *fn2 and under § 404 of the Clean Water Act. *fn3 Good proposed filling 7.4 acres of salt marsh and excavating another 5.4 acres of salt marsh in order to create a 54-lot subdivision and a 48-slip marina. The Corps granted the requested permit in May 1983. Good modified the permit in response to county environmental concerns and the modified permit was issued January 6, 1984. Under both permits, the authorized work had to be completed within five years. See 33 CFR § 325.6 (1998).

Good and Keycology were also pursuing the required state and county permits. In February 1983, the state Department of Environmental Regulation issued a permit for the requested dredging and filling. The state permit was conditioned, however, on Good obtaining county approval for the project.

On May 10, 1983, Good applied for county approval of the dredge-and-fill proposal that had been approved by the federal and state permits. The county determined that the plan was a "major development" subject to a more stringent environmental review than under standard procedures. After Good appealed the "major development" determination, the County Commission ordered the county to process the permit application under standard review procedures. The county granted Good's permit on July 13, 1984.

At this point, Good had received federal, state, and county approval to develop the property. Florida law, however, presented one more hurdle, in the form of the Environmental Land and Water Management Act, Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 380.012 to 380.12 (West 1997). The Act created a statutory regime for regulating development in Areas of Critical State Concern, including the entire Florida Keys. *fn4 Under the Act, the Florida Department of Community Affairs ("DCA") reviews local land development orders in Areas of Critical State Concern and may appeal those orders to the Florida Land and Water Adjudicatory Commission ("FLAWAC"). *fn5 See Fla. Stat. Ann. § 380.07 (West 1997). On September 10, 1984, the DCA appealed the county's approval of Good's dredge-and-fill project. FLAWAC held that the county had erred in subjecting Good's plan only to the standard review, and on May 29, 1986 ordered the county to review the project as a "major development."

Making matters worse for Good, the county in the meantime had adopted a new land use plan and new development regulations. The new regulations prohibited dredging to provide access to docks, prohibited filling of salt marsh for building sites, and limited filling of salt marsh to 10% of the salt marsh on a parcel. Monroe County, Fla. Code, art. II, § 9.5-345 (1986). Since Good's plan involved dredging to provide boat access between the proposed marina and Upper Sugarloaf Sound, and required filling roughly 25% of the parcel's salt marsh to provide building sites, Good's project would not have been allowed under the new regulations.

Good filed suit in state court, alleging that the state had taken his property without just compensation and that FLAWAC's order was an unreasonable exercise of police power. That suit was settled on October 22, 1987. The consent decree provided that Good's application would be evaluated under the repealed major development review standard but that any future development of Sugarloaf Shores would be subject to later-enacted land use regulations.

Good's efforts to get state and county approval for his project had used up most of the five-year time limit on the federal permits issued in 1983 and 1984. Good therefore requested that the Corps extend the time limits of the permits. The Corps denied Good's request to reissue the permits without changes, but granted a new permit allowing substantially the same development on October 17, 1988.

The county gave preliminary approval to Good's plan on November 9, 1989. Final county approval, however, was subject to fifteen conditions, the most significant of which was approval of the project by ...

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