On May 18, 1995, Governor Lawton Chiles signed into law landmark private property rights legislation enacted during the 1995 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature. The measure includes a new cause of action providing judicial relief to landowners who suffer inordinate burdens on the use of their land and a new nonjudicial settlement and expedited hearing procedure promoting compromise solutions for disputes between landowners and regulators.
The legislation concluded three years of contentious debate over the appropriate means to give landowners protection for the use of their property beyond the constitutional guarantee against the taking of private property for public use without just compensation. The new statute has stirred fears that it will empty the public purse and roll back decades of work in environmental protection and growth management, as well as countervailing concerns among landowners that it will not protect them from the proliferation of regulations that impede their efforts to put their land to productive use.
If properly implemented and applied, the measure will have none of the above effects. The legislation grants important new rights and remedies to landowners while maintaining existing environmental protection and growth management programs. It protects landowners against some regulatory actions which do not rise to the level of a taking, but it is more limited in scope than property rights legislation considered in Florida in recent years. Perhaps most importantly, the measure is intended to reform the way government does business with landowners. The legislation provides a measured response to a pressing and emotional issue and strikes a balance between conflicting, but equally valid, public and private interests.
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