Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council

1986–June 29, 1992

Beachfront Management

In 1988, the South Carolina “Beachfront Management Act” (Coastal Tidelands and Wetlands Act, as amended, §48-39-250 et seq.) established a comprehensive statewide beachfront management program. The Act included several key legislative findings, including (summarized):

Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council

In 1986, petitioner Lucas bought two residential lots on a South Carolina barrier island, intending to build single-family homes such as those on the immediately adjacent parcels. At that time, Lucas' lots were not subject to the State's coastal zone building permit requirements. In 1988, however, the state legislature enacted the Beachfront Management Act, which barred Lucas from erecting any permanent habitable structures on his parcels. He filed suit against respondent state agency, contending that, even though the Act may have been a lawful exercise of the State's police power, the ban on construction deprived him of all "economically viable use" of his property, and therefore effected a "taking" under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments that required the payment of just compensation. See, e.g., Agins v. Tiburon, 447 U.S. 255, 261. The state trial court agreed, finding that the ban rendered Lucas' parcels "valueless," and entered an award exceeding $1.2 million. In reversing, the State Supreme Court held itself bound, in light of Lucas' failure to attack the Act's validity, to accept the legislature's "uncontested . . . findings" that new construction in the coastal zone threatened a valuable public resource. The court ruled that, under the Mugler v. Kansas, 123 U.S. 623, line of cases, when a regulation is designed to prevent "harmful or noxious uses" of property akin to public nuisances, no compensation is owing under the Takings Clause regardless of the regulation's effect on the property's value.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council
  • Coverage 1986–June 29, 1992
  • Author
  • Keywords high-profile property-rights case, Beachfront Management Act,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date December 5, 2023
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 9, 2022
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