When Does the Application of a General Zoning Law to a Particular Property Constitute a Taking ?

In Agins v. City of Tiburon, 447 U.S. 255, 65 L. Ed. 2d 106, 100 S. Ct. 2138 (1980), the U.S. Supreme Court stated that application of a general zoning law to a particular property constitutes a taking "if the ordinance does not substantially advance legitimate state interests, or denies an owner economically viable use of his land." Id. at 260. The Court explained that in a taking, "the public at large, rather than a single owner, must bear the burden of an exercise of state power in the public interest." Id. In applying the law to the facts of the case, the Supreme Court held that the city's enactment of the zoning ordinances did not constitute a taking of the appellants' property. It found that exercises of the city's police power in passing and enforcing the zoning ordinances substantially advanced the legitimate government goal of protecting city residents from the "ill effects of urbanization." Id. at 261. Recognizing that the ordinances could limit development, the Court noted that "they neither prevent the best use of appellants' land, nor extinguish a fundamental attribute of ownership." Id. at 262. It specifically noted that the appellants were free to submit a development plan to local officials, and could be permitted to build as many as five houses on their property. Id. In addition, the Court found that the city's zoning ordinances benefited both the appellants and the public by assuring the "careful and orderly development of residential property with provision for open-space areas," and that the appellants would share the burdens of the city's exercise of its police power with other owners. Id.