They should have thanked her and her group for donating countless hours and valuable expertise to the planning effort for the Foothill Ranch. But instead, the Orange County Board of Supervisors refused (Sherry) Meddick's protest of a plan to wipe out thousands of oak and sycamore trees, some of them 500 years old, because she couldn't pay a $1,700 appeal fee (Oct. 20). Only last month, the fee was quietly raised from $560 because of what Supervisor Gaddi Vasquez called the board's commitment to "cost recovery."
Under county law, the board could have waived the fee for Meddick, as it automatically does when a city, state or federal government makes the appeal, so cost recovery was not the issue. The real reason why the board raised the fee beyond the reach of nonprofit public-interest groups like Meddick's and refused to waive it was to prevent them from suing the county for its routine violations of state environmental law in approving developments. These suits cannot be heard in the courts unless all "administrative remedies," including appeals to the Board of Supervisors, have first been exhausted.
Under the board's version of the U.S. Constitution, the equal protection of the law and the right to petition the government extend only to those who can afford a large fee.