U.S. SUPREME COURT REMANDS WETLANDS CASE BACK TO STATE
Rhode Island Sea Grant Provided Scientific Evidence of Wetlands Value to States Case
NARRAGANSETT, RHODE ISLAND: -- June 28, 2001 -- A 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court vote remanded back to the Rhode Island Supreme Court Palazzolo v. Rhode Island, determining that the Westerly landowner did not provide enough evidence that his land had been unlawfully "taken" when the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) forbade him from building on his wetlands property. The court said that the Rhode Island Supreme Court was wrong in determining that Anthony Palazzolos case was not ready for review and for ruling that he was barred from making a takings claim because he acquired the property after restrictive regulations were in place. However, the court decided that Palazzolo could have developed one house lot valued at $200,000 on his property, and thus had failed to establish that his property had lost all its economic value. Palazzolo was seeking $3.1 million in compensation for the loss of potential development income.
Rhode Island Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court on February 26, 2001 to defend the states position that a Westerly, R.I., landowner should not be permitted to develop 18 acres of tidal wetlands along the states shoreline. At the request of Attorney General Whitehouse, Rhode Island Sea Grant Coastal Extension staff compiled 20 years worth of tidal wetlands research as technical background for the states argument.
Recognizing Rhode Island Sea Grants long-standing reputation as a national leader in science research and outreach, the state requested assistance in two areas. First, Sea Grant provided quality scientific research that enabled the Attorney General to reference it in both the states law brief and science brief for the case. Second, several Rhode Island Sea Grant scientists of national repute who are affiliated with the University of Rhode Island (URI) responded to the Attorney Generals request by submitting a science amicus brief for the case. The scientists are Scott Nixon, Jon Boothroyd, and Frank Goulet.
According to Sea Grant Coastal Management Extension staff, the state sought scientific research about the wetlands area when it built its defense that the Rhode Island Supreme Court had been correct in denying the landowner a monetary award as compensation for being unable to develop his fragile wetlands property. "Rhode Island Sea Grant has a long history of providing exceptional scientific research to decision-making on local, state and federal levels," said Virginia Lee, Sea Grant Extension Coastal Management leader and U.S. programs leader for URI Coastal Resources Center. "Scientific research served a clear role in this case, and Rhode Island Sea Grant was able to respond to the Attorney Generals request for information promptly and effectively."
CRMC had denied Anthony Palazzolo a permit to fill his land for development purposes. Also, the Rhode Island Superior Court denied the landowners claim that he should be able to challenge land-use regulations enacted before he owned his property or receive compensation for lost development opportunities.
Established in 1966, Rhode Island Sea Grant is dedicated to increasing understanding of the marine environment and promoting the wise development and use of marine resources for the public benefit.
CONTACT: Rhode Island Sea Grant Assistant Director Ames Colt (401) 874 - 6800
Communications Specialist Sue Kennedy (401) 874-6107