A class action lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma over a surface mining operation on the north shore of Hood Canal.
The suit, filed by a dozen property owners in the vicinity of the operation owned by Grump Ventures LLC, names Mason County, Randy Neatherlin (as an individual and in his capacity as Mason County Commissioner), David Windom (as an individual and in his capacity as Director of Mason County Community Services), Grump Ventures’ principal Russell Scott and others as defendants.
The lawsuit centers around whether Grump Ventures’ surface mine can extend from the original 1.87 acres to the adjacent 66.5 acres as allowed by Form SM-6 which exempts the mine from the requirements of zoning ordinances. Most of the acreage in question is Designated Forest Land and adjacent to parcels zoned residential.
According to the 15-page complaint, as Director of Community Services, David Windom has final decision-making authority on Form SM-6 matters and signed the document in question on June 30, 2017. The complaint also says notice of the Form SM-6 approval was not given until 2018 when the County issued a “mitigated determination of nonsignificance” pursuant to Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act (“SEPA”).
The suit alleges that Mason County and the named individuals disregarded the recommendation from planning staff not to extend mining operations, pressured staff for a signature on the Form SM-6, and hid key items relating to Grump’s application including a 1963 aerial photo and staff memorandum in order to “cover up their unlawful and unconstitutional act…”
In their complaint, the plaintiffs say they were deprived of “rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and federal laws.” And “deprived of property rights without due process of law.” The complaint also says, “Defendants actions were arbitrary, irrational, invidious and tainted by improper motive and violated plaintiffs’ substantive due process rights.”
By approving the Form SM-6, the lawsuit also states, the County “gifted a property right to Grump,” and “would introduce a massive industrial surface mine into a peaceful residential area” depriving plaintiffs of “the use and enjoyment of their property.” Plaintiffs would also be subject to “significant health threats from air pollution” and loud noise and vibration from excavating.
The suit is asking that the court to “Vacate and set aside the Form SM-6.” The complaint doesn’t include a dollar amount but does ask to pay the plaintiffs “the damages they incur as a result of the defendants’ unconstitutional conduct” as well as litigation costs and attorneys’ fees.