Supreme Court Sides with Property Owners in EPA Appeals Case

The U.S. Supreme Court handed private property owners a victory yesterday with a decision allowing a couple to appeal an EPA ruling that their property contains a wetlands.

The court’s decision is supported by the National Association of REALTORS®, which along with other organizations submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.

The ruling is on a narrow procedural issue: whether the owners have the right to appeal the EPA’s wetlands determination or wait until they first restore the property to its original state and then institute expensive and time-consuming monitoring activities, as EPA directed them to. Noncompliance with the directive can subject violators to fines of up to $75,000 a day.

Lower courts have sided with the EPA, saying the agency’s compliance orders aren’t subject to judicial review. Only when the agency goes before a judge to assess a fine for noncompliance is the order reviewable by a court. But the Supreme Court in its unanimous decision said it’s appropriate to allow parties to contest agency decisions before having to first comply with the order.

NAR argued in its brief that the property owners in this case were being denied due process because the compliance procedures take years to work through and the costs are significant — all before the main question of whether the property contains a wetlands is even considered.

In this case, Mike and Chantell Sackett bought a piece of property in an already developed subdivision near Priest Lake in Idaho with sewer infrastructure already in place. After they started to prepare the property for construction of their house, they were directed by the EPA to stop and mitigate the changes they had made to the land out of a concern that the property contained a wetland — even though the property was adjacent to other developed properties and there was no water on the site at the time.

The Sacketts sought a hearing for their case to determine whether the property contained a wetlands, but EPA said that question couldn’t be decided until after they undertook the restoration and monitoring activities, or refused to do that and were levied a fine.

With the Supreme Court decision, the Sacketts can now get their day in court.


The author of this article is: Robert Freedman

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Top Gun House Waiting for its Next Role

One Southern California community wants to make sure you don’t “lose that loving feeling” for a Tom Cruise blockbuster movie that put it on the map 25 years ago.

That’s because the “Top Gun House,” a historic Oceanside, CA bungalow used as the home of fictional character “Charlie” (Kelly McGillis) and key rendezvous point with movie love interest “Maverick” (Cruise) will be saved and restored in a $209 million project approved by the Oceanside City Council.

Top Gun was the top-grossing movie of 1986 and while much of the action takes place in the air, or at the famed TOPGUN Navy Fighter Weapons School in Miramar, a few scenes in the ’80s classic were filmed at the 19th-century beach cottage.

Depicting the experiences of Navy fighter pilots at the advanced fighter school at the Naval Base in Miramar, “Top Gun” focuses on Maverick and his competition to be the best in the class, as well as his romance with a naval instructor, Charlie.

The historic bungalow was not only the home of Charlie and the location for many of Maverick and Charlie’s romantic scenes, but McGillis actually stayed in the home during production.

While Top Gun may have put the the Victorian-style cottage on the pop culture map, its history is just as fascinating. It was built in 1887 by Dr. Henry Graves, a retired physician from Riverside.

House circa 1888. Courtesy of Oceanside Historical Society

According to Kristi Hawthorne of the Oceanside Historical Society, the home is “one of the oldest beach cottages in San Diego County.”

Hawthorne says the house was a rental on the Oceanside real estate market for decades and occupied up until about 2005, when the city of Oceanside took ownership and the home was declared a historic property.

House circa 1998. Courtesy of Oceanside Historical Society

Presently, the home sits on the site of a planned $209 million upscale beach resort. It is the only one of four historic homes on the street that the Oceanside City Council approved to keep.

Home circa 2007. Courtesy of Oceanside Historical Society

“Eventually the house will be restored and moved 2 blocks north on North Pacific and incorporated into the resort and used as perhaps a coffee house or gift shop,” explained Hawthorne.

Unfortunately, as of today, it looks like the famous home has “lost that loving feeling.”

Due to the recession and difficulties securing financing for the resort, a date has not been set for construction. So now, the Top Gun House sits all alone at the corner of North Pacific Street and Seagaze Drive, boarded up and sitting empty, enclosed by a chain-link fence to prevent vandalism.

Top Gun House today via Google Street View

Tourists and movie buffs still stop by to take photos of the beach cottage. During celebrations this past Memorial Day weekend, the city of Oceanside saluted the film’s 25th anniversary with a “Top Gun” themed weekend, complete with a film screening, fighter jets, beach volleyball and of course, hearty renditions of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” “Read Full Story”

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