League of Women Voters v. Litchfield-by-the-Sea
SCELP represented the League of Women Voters in challenging a coastal zone consistency certification. Reversing a lower court rejection, the South Carolina Supreme Court denounced the limitation on citizens’ rights to notice, hearing and judicial review of coastal consistency certification decisions, clearing the way for citizens to utilize important coastal protection laws.
After SCELP won a big victory in the organization's first case, overturning permits for a canal through wetlands at Willbrook Plantation, another fight erupted around the same project. While the first Willbrook case was pending, the developer was building a golf course and making major alterations to about 75 acres of wetlands in the process, including excavations and bulkheading, without first obtaining a Coastal Council certification.
After the Supreme Court victory in the first case, SCELP had begun reviewing the certification procedure utilized by the Council as well as some of the projects being certified. Soon enough, the Coastal Council issued an after-the-fact certification for the above mentioned wetland alteration, without allowing environmental groups and other concerned citizens to provide input int the process. In fact, the case was not placed on public notice, no public hearing was held and the certification was issued by the Council staff.
Representing the League of Women Voters of Georgetown County, SCELP challenged the Coastal Council's certification, which was overturned by the South Carolina Supreme Court in 1991.
Wetlands protection was the thematic focus of SCELP's first newsletter and is currently one of the key concerns in South Carolina arising from the federal wrangling over the Water of the United States regulations. It is unfortunate that the current administration has shown very little regard to public input and participation so far and as we prepare for new battles on this front, it is encouraging to appreciate how far we have come since SCELP got started.
As this and related cases show, wetlands protection has been one of the core programmatic areas of SCELP since the very beginning, including the 38 non-coastal counties lacking the stronger protections of the Coastal Zone Program.