Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council was a high-profile property-rights case.
(1992). Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council was a high-profile property-rights case. The case pitted the state of South Carolina’s right to regulate the use of property for the “public good” versus the right of individuals to use their property as they see fit or to be justly compensated for the loss of the use of the property.
In 1986 David Lucas bought two residential lots on Isle of Palms. His intention was to build single-family houses on the lots such as were built on the immediately adjoining parcels of land. At the time of purchase, Lucas’s lots were not subject to the state’s coastal zone building-permit requirements. However, in 1988 the state legislature enacted the Beachfront Management Act. This act directed the Coastal Council to establish a baseline along the shoreline. The building of occupied structures seaward of the baseline was prohibited. The act provided no exceptions. The effect of this action on Lucas was that he was not able to erect any permanent habitable structures on his parcels.
Lucas promptly brought suit in the S.C. Court of Common Pleas of Charleston County, arguing that the Beachfront Management Act’s construction prohibition constituted a taking of his property without just compensation. The court of common pleas ruled in Lucas’s favor and awarded him damages. The Coastal Council appealed the decision, and the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Coastal Council. Lucas sought redress from the United States Supreme Court, which accepted the case for review. In its decision, handed down on June 29, 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that the state’s action in barring the erection of permanent structures rendered Lucas’s property useless and therefore that compensation under the “taking clause” should be made.
Cody, Thomas, and Dwight Merriam. “The Supreme Court Takes on ‘Takings’: Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council.” Planning Commissioners Journal 8 (January/February 1993): 8–9.
Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003 (1992).