An Orange County man will take his fight over property rights all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Coy Koontz Jr. has been in a battle with the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) since his father was not able to develop a piece of land near State Road 408 and East Colonial back in the 1980s.
SJRWMD wanted the Koontz family to deed 11 of 15 acres to them and pay to install culverts in a property owned by the district nearly 7 miles away.
Attorney Alan DeSerio will represent Koontz in court.
"This is the most egregious attempt at extortion from a property owner that I've ever seen," said DeSerio.
Koontz Jr. claims that improving the SJRWMD property would have cost $250,000. The district says it would have only cost $10,000. Why not just give in and do what he was asked, so that the property could have been developed?
"What would be the point of just stopping and saying 'OK you win'? Because, in essence what you are doing is saying the Constitution doesn't make that much sense anymore."
The crucial question at stake is whether or not government can force land owners to do things that are not directly connected to their property in order to secure development rights for their property. Koontz sold this property in the past couple of years, but the lawsuit continues, and he is determined to win.
"We really need to win this, again, not just for us, but for everyone, because just erosion, this creeping erosion by government to take over. It is not good, and it will continue to destroy."
SJRWMD is also prepared for the fight and ready to battle at the Supreme Court. They sent us this statement when we asked why they wanted Koontz to fix property that was nowhere near his land.
"Koontz claims he was required by the district to perform his mitigation on district property; however, the district's final order stated, "equivalent off-site mitigation enhancement options on other properties within the basin could also be developed and proposed by Koontz."
Also, Koontz's attorney stipulated before trial that "the district would also favorably consider equivalent mitigation enhancement options on other properties within the Basin proposed by Koontz."