Court denies injunction

Published 11:12 pm Thursday, August 2, 2018

The court ruled to deny a request for an injunction to be in place regarding the landfill Tuesday.

The ruling comes after a hearing Monday where plaintiff William “Bill” Bruce and defendant L. Lee Byrd, representing the Cumberland County Board of Supervisors, spoke about their positions to implement and dismiss a request for an injunction, respectively.

The ruling was conducted by Judge Melvin Hughes Jr., a retired judge for the 13th Judicial Circuit.

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A hearing for a referendum potentially allowing citizens to vote on the Green Ridge facility, initially scheduled for Aug. 23, was moved up to Tuesday, Aug. 7. The case will begin 9:30 a.m. at the Cumberland County Courthouse.

An emergency meeting with the Cumberland County Board of Supervisors relating to the community host agreement between the board and the landfill company, Green Ridge LLC, took place Thursday. Additional information about the meeting will be available in the following issue of The Herald.

Bruce filed his case, “Emergency Motion for a Preliminary Injunction Due to Citizens Notifications and Concerns,” June 27, according to court documents.

In response, the motion, “Emergency Motion to Dismiss per Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdictions” was filed representing the board of supervisors.

Hughes, in his ruling, said the court case Monday took place without the testimony of witnesses that were neither requested nor submitted by either party, except for an affidavit of the County Attorney offered without objection from the court.

William Shewmake, attorney for County Waste of Virginia and Green Ridge LLC, spoke during the hearing and said while the landfill is not party to the case, the company could sustain substantial damage depending on the ruling of the case.

“What plaintiff seeks now is a ‘cease and desist’ for any further action by the Board (of Supervisors) in the approval process ‘until the citizens are allowed to vote on the Referendum scheduled for Nov. 6, 2018 State Election Ballot,” Hughes said in the approximately 3-page ruling.

“The position of the parties raises issues of the validity of a referendum request under Virginia law and of the propriety of injunction relief,” the ruling cited. “Upon consideration, the Court does not believe that Plaintiff has satisfied either of these. Accordingly, the request for injunction relief will be denied.”

The referendum, according to Bruce and the court ruling, asks the question, “Should the Board of Supervisors of Cumberland County, Virginia be allowed to approve the building of a landfill within the County Limits without a Voter Referendum?”

Byrd and the Board of Supervisors argued that the referendum request would not be subject for approval because it does not comply with Virginia law.

“Generally, referenda in Virginia for issues statewide are to be instituted upon approval by the General Assembly,” the ruling cited. “Here, we are dealing with a local matter. For matters of local concern, the General Assembly has authorized referenda for only specific subject matter when the governing body petitions the Circuit Court to order a referendum on the question of adoption of an ordinance, agreement or resolution. The subject matter for this referendum proposal is not one of them.”

“This is important because a Court sitting in equity on a request for an injunction, as here, may consider the likelihood of success on the merits of the case upon a full hearing of the case,” the ruling cited.

The ruling also noted that the court does not believe the injunction presented follows the criteria for immediate or imminent harm to citizens, which would need to be proven to the court before it can rule in favor of an injunction.

“As mentioned during the hearing, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is yet to approve a permit for the landfill,” the ruling cited. “Counsel indicated that any agency action is projected to occur sometime within 18 months. … Here, there are political and regulatory processes in place which would allow those in opposition to express their views to the Board and to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in the past and going forward to seek a defeat of the project. Under these circumstances the law dictates that it would not be appropriate for any judicial intervention.”

Bruce, in a statement Wednesday, said while he hoped for a different ruling, he said he and county residents will continue to take action in response to the landfill. In an earlier interview, Bruce said he and other residents were in the process of filing an appeal in response to the board’s decision to rezone the property for the landfill from Agricultural-2, with a portion zoned as Residential-2, to Industrial-2 (M-2).