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The Mel and Pam McGinnis Story

 Mel and Pam McGinnis wanted to build a home on a 5.5-acre waterfront lot they had purchased in Terra Ceia, Florida. But the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) denied the McGinnises' application, citing the presence of wetlands on the property. The McGinnises claimed that the wetlands were the result of old, man-made mosquito control ditches which are supposed to be exempt from wetlands permitting.

In May 1996, the McGinnises requested that the state appoint an official to mediate the dispute. The mediator issued a ruling favorable to the McGinnises in which he criticized the DEP for not acting reasonably and in good faith. The DEP then entered into settlement negotiations with the couple which resulted in an agreement to grant them a modified building permit.

But before the agreement was finalized, an environmental group filed a lawsuit to declare the mediation proceedings null and void because they were not open to the public. Citing the lawsuit, the DEP reneged on the agreement with the McGinnises in March 1997. The McGinnises then requested an administrative hearing to contest the permit denial. The McGinnises also bought an alternative site near the town of Parrish to build their house.

Then on April 4, four DEP agents and two Marine Patrol officers invaded their Parrish property charging the couple with yet another wetlands violation. Shocked and exasperated, the McGinnises reported the incident to the Governor's office as a case of retaliatory harassment by the DEP. The state inspector general began an investigation and issued a report in October critical of the DEP's actions. The DEP dropped its prosecution of the McGinnises for the alleged wetlands violations on the Parrish property. They were eventually granted a permit to build a house on that land.

As for their other property in Terra Ceia, an administrative law judge issued a ruling in April 1998 upholding the DEP's denial of a building permit.
Source: Florida Legal Foundation

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