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Virginia Supreme Court rules for county, Vulcan

Posted on Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 2:50 pm

RICHMOND – The Supreme Court of Virginia upheld the ruling of a Caroline County Circuit Court Judge who dismissed a lawsuit by Friends of the Rappahannock against the Caroline Board of Supervisors over a permit to allow sand and gravel mining.

Judge Joseph Ellis dismissed the lawsuit brought by the conservation organization, which sought to block sand and gravel mining by Vulcan Construction Materials on Black Marsh Farm in the remote Skinker’s Neck area next to the Rappahannock River.

“We will affirm the judgment of the circuit court dismissing the complaint for failure to allege a sufficient basis to demonstrate standing,” Justice Leroy F. Millette Jr. wrote for Virginia’s highest court in an opinion handed down Thursday.

Ellis did not err in applying the aggrieved party standard to determine standing in a declaratory judgment action challenging a land use decision of a local governing body, said Millette.

“We further hold that, based upon the insufficiency of allegations in their complaint, the individual complainants did not have standing to proceed.”

Attorneys for both sides in the dispute could not be reached immediately for comment.

The Caroline Board of Supervisors approved the issuance of a special exception permit to Vulcan and Black Marsh Farm in Rappahannock Academy in 2011 in order to allow sand and gravel mining on 514 acres.

Vulcan plans to transport sand and travel extracted from the mining operation via barge on the river.

In its lawsuit, filed soon after the decision of the Board of Supervisors, the conservation organization claimed the barge traffic would interfere with its interest in protecting water quality, preserving the river’s scenic beauty, and its public education efforts in land use and resource conservation advocacy. Six individual complainants also were party to the lawsuit.

Ellis held a hearing on the lawsuit and ultimately dismissed the claim, and Friends of the Rappahannock and the individual complainants appealed.

The Supreme Court of Virginia earlier agreed to consider the appeal on two issues – whether Ellis had made an error in applying the aggrieved person standard and challenging his ruling that the individual complainants had alleged only “non-particularized harms.”