Family asks Florida high court to lift bird ban on their private property

A Florida family is looking to the state Supreme Court to resolve a decades-old property rights dispute that’s gone to the birds — literally.

In 1970, Tom and Molly Beyer purchased a 9-acre island in the Florida Keys for $70,000. The property was intended to be a legacy investment for the couple’s children. Despite development zoning, local officials eventually blocked the Beyers from building on it through a series of land use restrictions.

First, they could only develop one home per acre. Then, one home per 10 acres. Finally, Monroe County officials designated the vacant investment property a bird rookery, effectively banning all future development.

“This case is about an uncompensated property grab — literally, an unconstitutional island grab,” said Mark Miller, managing attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation’s Florida-based Atlantic Center.

“The island has been seized from the Beyers in all but name,” he said.

The couple passed away during the past twenty years of legal battles to reclaim the use of their land, and their children have since taken up the family cause. They’ve enlisted the help of the the nonprofit public interest law firm that specializes in property rights and a “balanced approach to environmental regulations,” according to its website.

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