BILL ELLEN ALL OVER AGAIN
THE DEFENDERS OF PROPERTY RIGHTS LEGAL FOUNDATION is preparing a brief amici curiae (friend of the court) in the case of United States v. Interstate General Company and James J. Wilson, requesting that the United States District Court for the District of Maryland dismiss criminal charges against the defendants. Mr. Wilson and Interstate General Company (IGC)stand accused of violating wetlands rules by adding "fill" dirt to four privately owned parcels of land during the course of residential and commercial construction. According to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, these parcels allegedly contained "wetlands."
At issue is whether the Federal Government may prosecute a property owner for engaging in the constitutionally protected use of his property.
Over the past thirty years, Mr. Wilson (the president of IGC) has presided over the design and continues development of St. Charles, a small planned community on the eastern shore of Maryland . When completed , it will be one of the most environmentally sound communities in the state of Maryland. The entire project has been carried out in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and cost over $150 Million.
IGC followed 1977 Environmental Impact Staterment (EIS) guidelines which definitively stated that the 9100 acre St. Charles development contained no jurisdictional wetlands with the exception of seventy-five acres that IGC and HUD proposed to preserve. The EIS was submitted to the Army Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Army Corps concluded that the planned development of St. Charles would have "no impact" on their area of responsibility. Likewise the EPA concluded that the St. Charles development contained no jurisdictional wetlands outside the designated 75 acres. Nevertheless, these very agencies are now criminally prosecuting Mr. Wilson and IGC.
In our brief, we argue that a statute requiring a permit to engage in constitutionally- protected use of one's property contravenes the Fifth Amendment's just compensation clause and is therefore invalid as applied. If the Army Corps did not have the legal power to require a permit, then the disturbance of the wetlands without a permit is simply not a crime.