A Deschutes County landowner has filed suit against Central Electric Cooperative and a neighboring landowner, alleging she was misled about the purpose of a power line easement across her property.
Virginia Sanders, in a complaint filed Jan. 24 in Deschutes County Circuit Court, states she was told the power line would provide electricity to a machine shop. Instead, the power is meant for a proposed indoor marijuana farm near Smith Rock. Sanders wants the easement vacated, the power line torn down and a judgment of $10,000.
In addition to the power company, landowner Curt Rogers and a holding company, Lee Property Management LLC, the suit also names as a defendant the previous landowner, Randy Shoaff.
“Defendants assert that they have a right to utilize that power line for purposes not consented to by the plaintiff (Sanders),” according to the complaint, filed by Edward Fitch of Fitch Law Group, Redmond. “This would include a marijuana operation, which is illegal under federal law.”
Sanders, 87, on Tuesday said the power line provided electricity to a pumphouse on 40 acres she and her late husband once owned. The power line was erected in 1979, after which the Sanderses sold the 40 acres to John and Linda Benham, the lawsuit states. The line remained in place without a formal easement, according to the suit.
“We’re not unreasonable,” Sanders said. “If they hadn’t sat here and lied to me, lied to me, and then I found out later. That’s what made me mad. If they had just told the truth.”
According to her lawsuit: Sanders met with Shoaff, Rogers and a Central Electric representative, Parneli Perkins, at her home Oct. 12. After Shoaff and Rogers explained they needed additional power for a machine shop, Sanders signed an easement agreement. Perkins was not present at first, but was present later when they repeated the claim. Tuesday, Sanders said two utility representatives were present.
“By virtue of the fact we’re in court, it’s clear we disagree with her statements and claims,” said Jeff Beaman, Central Electric Cooperative member services director, on Tuesday. He said the utility would not comment further on the lawsuit.
Shoaff said he did not know at the time that Rogers intended to build a cannabis farm on the property.
“She wasn’t lied to. I did not know it was going to be a grow operation,” Shoaff said Tuesday. “I honestly didn’t know anything about it. Two or three weeks or a month later, I get a call from Curt: ‘We’re gonna do this and this,’ and it all comes out.”
Rogers’ attorney, Jeremy Dickman, of Clifton Cannabis Law, in Bend, said Rogers disputes Sanders’ version of the meeting, including the date and who was present. Rogers said he wants to be a good neighbor.
“I don’t want any animosity from anybody. I’m fine; they can tear up the easement,” he said Tuesday. “I’m sorry if she feels she was misled.”
Rogers on Nov. 20 filed a land use application with Deschutes County for an indoor cannabis farm, Swamp Fox Farm, with a 4,000-square-foot canopy. Izze Liu, an assistant county planner, in an email Tuesday, wrote that she’s waiting on further information to complete the application and no decision on it has been made.
Central Electric in September agreed to provide service, but “this service will require system upgrades,” according to county records.
Neighbors have 12 days to appeal a decision once the notice is mailed to Rogers. He purchased the property in December for $749,000, county records show.
Dickman, Rogers’ attorney, said he’s confident the proposed cannabis farm will survive Sanders’ legal challenge. A land use appeal may add three months to Rogers’ plans, along with approximately six months to obtain a marijuana producers license from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Rogers, a contractor, said he’s moving his family from South Carolina. “It’s just a guy and his family trying to start a family farm,” Dickman said.
— Reporter: 541-617-7815, firstname.lastname@example.org