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Sheetz v. Cnty. of El Dorado, 144 S. Ct. 893, 2024 WL 1588707 (April 12, 2024) (Barrett, J.).

George Sheetz wanted to build a small, prefabricated home on his residential parcel of land. To obtain a permit, though, he had to pay a substantial fee to mitigate local traffic congestion. Relying on this Court’s decisions in Nollan v. California Coastal Comm’n, 483 U. S. 825, 107 S. Ct. 3141, 97 L. Ed. 2d 677 (1987), and Dolan v. City of Tigard, 512 U. S. 374, 114 S. Ct. 2309, 129 L. Ed. 2d 304 (1994), Sheetz challenged the fee as an unlawful “exaction” of money under the Takings Clause. The California Court of Appeal rejected that argument because the traffic impact fee was imposed by legislation, and, according to the court, Nollan and Dolan apply only to permit conditions imposed on an ad hoc basis by administrators. That is incorrect. The Takings Clause does not distinguish between legislative and administrative permit conditions.

When the government wants to take private property to build roads, courthouses, or other public projects, it must compensate the owner at fair market value. The just compensation requirement comes from the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause, which provides: “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” By requiring the government to pay for what it takes, the Takings Clause saves individual property owners from bearing “public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole.” Armstrong v. United States, 364 U. S. 40, 49, 80 S. Ct. 1563, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1554 (1960).

In sum, there is no basis for affording property rights less protection in the hands of legislators than administrators. The Takings Clause applies equally to both—which means that it prohibits legislatures and agencies alike from imposing unconstitutional conditions on land-use permits.

The judgment of the California Court of Appeal is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.