It seems that when good fences aren’t enough, good lawyers will have to do.
The news of a pair of lawsuits by the operators of Chiquita Canyon caught us, and the landfill’s neighbors, by surprise for a couple of reasons.
The first surprise: After a lengthy lobbying effort to extend the landfill’s lifespan, Chiquita Canyon apparently decided not to abide by the agreed-upon terms, according to Los Angeles County officials, prompting the county to hit the landfill with several notices of violation last December, just months after the extension was approved.
It’s also curious that we wouldn’t have known about the violations if not for Chiquita’s response — a lawsuit that made numerous claims about a deal that the landfill’s operators had just inked.
The first public mention of the situation came only as a result of Castaic Area Town Council member Lloyd Carder asking about the lawsuit during a presentation by county representative Rosalind Wayman in front of the council at its last meeting.
If you’ll remember, Carder drew the ire of some of his colleagues when he openly questioned if the council could review housing decisions made based on the assumption of the landfill’s closure, noting council members had approved an elementary school near the landfill under a recently renewed effort to move the developments approved under the county’s “One Valley, One Vision” plan.
Carder’s concerns even prompted a couple of his fellow council members to call upon him to step down. We’re glad those calls were ignored.
The second surprise comes from the fact that Los Angeles County faced backlash a few months back, not to mention a lawsuit — from residents, on Chiquita Canyon’s behalf — for granting the landfill permission to expand its operations within its existing footprint.
Some accused the county of being in a cozy relationship with the landfill. The subsequent legal trail, however, shows a less-than cozy relationship.
We’re also left to wonder now about Chiquita Canyon’s promises during its quest for approval.
There was much discussion, for example, about how the landfill needed to remain open to serve as a local resource and not as a dumping ground for the rest of the county.
County officials, to that end, established fees to discourage the Chiquita Canyon from becoming a haven for the city of L.A.’s refuse. Now, however, Chiquita Canyon is balking at the fees. At least, they are according to the lawsuit, and the landfill’s representatives have gone silent due to the lawsuit.
What’s most concerning – particularly after so many local officials spoke on behalf of Chiquita Canyon during the approval process – is that the landfill’s operators have decided to sue instead of work to mitigate the county’s notices of violation.
The county, after all, was simply acting to enforce the same deal that Chiquita Canyon had agreed to and signed.
We’ve heard enough trash talk: Chiquita Canyon and Los Angeles County negotiated and reached accord. It’s time now for both sides to live up to the terms of the deal – not begin a new round of wrangling.