Lost Tree Vill. Corp. v. United States, No. 14-5093 (Fed. Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
Lost Tree entered into an option to purchase 2,750 acres on the mid-Atlantic coast of Florida, including a barrier island, a peninsula bordering the Indian River, and islands in the Indian River. From 1969 to 1974, Lost Tree purchased most of the land, including Plat 57, 4.99 acres on the Island of John’s Island and Gem Island, consisting of submerged lands and wetlands. Lost Tree developed 1,300 acres into a gated community, but had no plans of developing Plat 57 until 2002, when it learned that a developer applied for a wetlands fill permit for land south of Plat 57 and proposed improvements to a mosquito control impoundment on McCuller’s Point. Because Lost Tree owned land on McCuller’s Point, approval required its consent. Lost Tree sought permitting credits in exchange for the proposed improvements. To take advantage of those credits, Lost Tree obtained zoning and other local and state permits to develop Plat 57. The Army Corps of Engineers denied an application under the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1344 for a section 404 fill permit, finding that Lost Tree could have pursued less environmentally damaging alternatives and had adequately realized its development purpose. On remand, the trial court found that the denial diminished Plat 57’s value by 99.4% and constituted a per se taking and awarded Lost Tree $4,217,887.93. The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding that a “Lucas” taking occurred because the denial eliminated all value stemming from Plat 57’s possible economic uses.