(CN) – The Court of Federal Claims sent a takings case back to trial after being unable to determine whether development of a 5-acre plot of Florida wetlands fits with an overarching development plan.
Lost Tree Village Corp. sued the United States for lost profits after the Army Corps of Engineers denied it a permit under the Clean Water Act to fill wetlands for development of the plot within a gated community on barrier islands off the coast of Florida.
The company bought coastal land near Palm Beach in the 1960s, developing the John’s Island gated residential community over 25 years.
In 1996, the company changed its tax status, shifting from real estate to investment management.
Applications for development of the 5-acre plot, which the ruling deemed an “afterthought,” were filed in 2002.
The government argued that development of the plot did not fit with an overarching development plan, and that the plot should be considered a conservation wetlands.
The plot is described as a “mangrove swamp and wetlands that have been disturbed by scattered upland soil mounds vegetated by an invasive species of pepper, and by manmade ditches installed for mosquito control.” It “appears to have little value in its present state, either environmentally or aesthetically,” the court wrote.
The court pointed out that while the parcel falls within the gated community, a rather long time period separates the permit applications from the rest of the development.
Despite “voluminous documentary exhibits” on the facts of the parcel, the Washington, D.C.-based claims court ruled that more information was needed regarding the plot’s administration.
The court denied the motions of both parties and remanded the case for trial.