Stop the Mining!Author: Timothy J. Clifton
Last week, the Third District Appellate Court allowed 13 landowners to proceed with their lawsuit against the Village of North Utica (“Village”) and Aramoni, a mining company. The Circuit Court had previously dismissed a three-count complaint against the Village and Aramoni based on the failure to state a cause of action.
In August 2013, Aramoni, a sand mining company, petitioned the Village to annex certain property to allow the land to be used for a silica sand mine. Despite a recommendation from the Village’s Planning Commission to deny the proposed annexation and special use, the Village Board of Trustees voted to approve the annexation agreement and special use. Specifically, the Village allowed Aramoni to operate a silica sand mine seven days a week and to conduct blasts during daylight hours Monday through Friday. Further, the Annexation Agreement provided that Aramoni’s operation of the mine would not constitute a nuisance under the Village ordinance.
The Plaintiffs consisted of 13 owners of land in LaSalle County near the land proposed to be used as the sand mine. The Complaint alleged that in adopting the mining ordinances the Village violated the land owners’ substantive due process rights, violated the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution, and was a prospective nuisance. The Circuit Court found that the Plaintiffs had standing to sue due to owning land in proximity to the threatened harmful action. However, the Circuit Court further found that they had failed to state a cause of action for a violation of their rights under the Constitution or for a prospective nuisance.
On review, the Third District found that at this stage of the litigation, the Plaintiffs had alleged sufficient facts to establish a violation of their substantive due process rights and a prospective nuisance.
As it pertained to their due process rights, the Third District held that the factual allegations in the Complaint were sufficient to satisfy the precedential LaSalle and Living Word factors and demonstrated a potential deprivation of the Plaintiff’s property interest in an arbitrary, unreasonable, or capricious manner.
With regard to the prospective nuisance, in order to meet their burden, the Plaintiffs were required to allege that the defendant had engaged in a hazardous act which seriously and imminently threatened the public health. In allowing the Plaintiffs to proceed on their prospective nuisance claim, the Third District found that they had alleged sufficient facts of a likely nuisance. Interestingly, the Third District specifically noted the fact that the Village allowed Aramoni to mine 24 hours a day, seven days per week and to use explosive devices during daylight hours in finding the likelihood of a prospective nuisance.
At this point, the Court merely found that the Plaintiffs alleged sufficient facts to proceed with the lawsuit. We will continue to monitor and report on this case and the impact it may have on municipalities going forward.