Shamrock Materials, the Petaluma concrete and materials company, has filed an objection in county court arguing that it never agreed to allow Dutra Materials to use its property for the company’s proposed asphalt plant at Haystack Landing, a move opponents of the project are hailing as a major development in the ongoing case.
The motion, called a demurrer, was filed in Sonoma County Superior Court last Friday and essentially asks the county to drop Shamrock Materials as a party of interest in the lawsuit filed by the city of Petaluma and various local groups in January.
“This isn’t Shamrock’s project,” said Clayton Clement, a Santa Rosa attorney who is representing Shamrock Materials. “What we’re saying is ‘you have your fight with Dutra, just leave us out of it.’ We don’t want to be in a lawsuit that is about somebody else's project.”
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved the controversial asphalt plant in December after more than five years of discussions. The plant would be situated on 37 acres across the river from Shollenberger Park and have an output of 570,000 tons of asphalt and rock material, which opponents have called dangerous to both health and local tourism.
“We kind of expected it and we are very happy that truth is finally coming out of the closet,” said David Keller, president of the Petaluma River Council and one of the plaintiffs in the case. “It’s about time…Shamrock has had plenty of opportunities to be explicit about their agreement and they weren’t.”
The objection is a major development in the case because Dutra needed Shamrock’s access to the river after being told by the U.S. Coast Guard that it could not build its own pier because it would impair navigational safety, said Richard Drury, the lead prosecutor for the plaintiffs.
“This county approved a project that necessarily requires Dutra to bring its aggregate through the Shamrock facility and to build this conveyer belt through Shamrock’s wetlands, and there was never any indication that Shamrock agreed to this,” Drury said. “It’s kind of like if your next door neighbor proposed to build a gazebo on your backyard and the county said sure, except you never agreed to it.”
Dutra Materials, reached Wednesday morning, called Haystack Landing opponents' allegations that Friday's filing spelled the end of the project, "completely off-base."
"The reality of the county’s recent approval of Haystack is that we are required to fulfill a number of conditions before the asphalt plant can operate," said spokeswoman Aimi Dutra. "Until we meet these start-up conditions, it is premature for us to formalize our agreement with Shamrock. That’s a standard business practice and it’s why we agree that Shamrock should not be named in this lawsuit."