News Release: Supreme Court Decision Reaffirms Importance of Local Planning Laws

CHICAGO — Today’s decision in the U.S. Supreme Court case Murr v. Wisconsin reaffirms the importance of local planning and zoning laws in guiding local land use and reflects continued support of well-established “takings” doctrines. The American Planning Association and its Wisconsin Chapter filed an amicus brief in support of the state.

The 5-3 decision upholds the need for maintaining flexibility when reviewing takings claims. The Court recognized that establishing a formulistic, rigid approach to defining an adjacent land parcel could bring about significant unintended consequences and call into question the validity of many ordinary planning and zoning laws.

APA has and continues to advocate that judicial review should not replace local decision making. Members of a community — elected officials, business leaders, and citizens — are in a better position than the courts to know what must be done for their community.

"Liberty Enthroned": Detail on the exterior of the U.S. Supreme Court building. Photo in the public domain.

The Court also relied upon well-established takings doctrines from both Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council and Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City and did not establish new parameters for determining when a regulatory taking has occurred. Justice Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that “...the test the Court adopts today is consistent with the respect for state law described in Lucas.”

At issue was whether a regulatory taking occurred when the family’s two land parcels were "merged" into one parcel under a local zoning ordinance because the parcels were contiguous and had come under common ownership. The petitioners argued that a regulatory taking occurred and they were due for just compensation. The state argued that the merging of the two land parcels did not decrease the value of the property.

"Through this decision, the Court has reaffirmed its established practice of not creating a one-size-fits-all approach to reviewing takings claims," said John Baker, chair of APA's Amicus Committee. "Flexibility within the courts is necessary to understand local planning and zoning laws and reflects upon past precedence set by the Court."

The American Planning Association (APA) in conjunction with the APA Wisconsin Chapter urged the court to uphold the merger provision. The brief was written by Michael Allan Wolf from the University of Florida and Nancy E. Stroud from Lewis, Stroud & Deutsch, PL.

The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning — physical, economic, and social — so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago with almost 37,000 members worldwide. For more information, visit

# # #


Roberta Rewers, APA, 312-786-6395;

June 23, 2017