Developer: Coastal Commission not obeying court orders

Displeased with the California Coastal Commission's decision to hold off on voting through its housing project near the Bolsa Chica wetlands, Shea Homes has filed a statement with Orange County Superior Court that claims the commission is not honoring court orders.

"Recent events ... suggest the commission's staff may no longer be prepared to honor this court's order or the commission's statutory or regulatory obligations," Shea's court statement said.

The commission in October rejected Shea's 50-acre, 111-home project at 17301 Graham St., north of the Wintersburg Channel, leading the developer to file a $55-million lawsuit against the state.

A court settlement required the commission to hold another public hearing on the project with no changes to the staff's October report and so-called "revote" on it.

The commission did hold a public hearing on the project June 13. However, it held off on voting again when some commissioners questioned the level of mitigations requirement to make up for what environmentalists say was destruction of the wetlands.

The Bolsa Chica Land Trust, which opposes Shea's project, contends that Shea and previous owners of the property, on many occasions, illegally graded and filled the wetlands without a permit.

Shea has argued otherwise.

In 2007, the Coastal Commission said four acres of wetlands were destroyed and required Shea to replace them in a one-to-one ratio, according to a commission staff report.

However, during the June meeting, some commissioners questioned that ratio, saying that the commission usually requires a four-to-one ratio, and they wanted answers.

Commission staff said they couldn't get answers on the mitigation numbers by the end of the meeting and a decision was made to continue the public hearing.

Shea officials who were present at the meeting agreed to continue the hearing until staff can provide the commission with some answers.

The case management conference statement filed by Shea on July 17 says commission staff recently informed Shea that mitigation issues must be resolved "through a 'consent order' or enforcement proceeding" before the commission considers rescheduling a hearing on the project for a vote, a move Shea is not happy with.

"Shea Homes would never have stipulated to a court-ordered remand for a hearing on its application only to have it undermined and sidetracked by the initiation of yet another proceeding on matters resolved in 2007," the court statement said.

A court hearing was scheduled for July 23, but Shea requested a two-week continuance to give the Coastal Commission time to reschedule a public hearing for a vote on the project, or Shea said it would have to seek further court actions on the matter. The next court hearing is Aug. 20.

A lawyer for Shea would not comment on whether an agreement was reached or what action it expects to take on Aug. 20.

The Coastal Commission met in a closed session during its meeting this month to discuss the matter, but a call to staff was not immediately returned.

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