United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia
ROXUL USA, INC., a Delaware corporation, d/b/a, “ROCKWOOL, ” Plaintiff,
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE COUNTY OF JEFFERSON, a West Virginia county board of education, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF HEARING DENYING THE
DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS OR ABSTAIN
M. GROH CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
April 30, 2019, the parties in the above-styled civil action
appeared before the Court for a hearing on the
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction or
Abstain. ECF No. 19. James A. Walls, Joseph V. Schaeffer and
James C. Walls, III, appeared on behalf of the Plaintiff,
Roxul USA, Inc. (“Rockwool”). Anthony J. Majestro
and Courtney B. Harden appeared on behalf of the Defendant,
Board of Education of the County of Jefferson
(“BOE”). After reviewing the parties' briefs,
considering oral argument, and carefully analyzing the
controlling law, the Court DENIED the motion
to dismiss for the reasons provided herein.
civil action arises from the BOE's threatened
condemnation of Rockwool's 194-acre real property located
in Ranson, West Virginia. The background of that dispute is
is “the world's leading manufacturer of
environmentally-friendly stone wool insulation.” ECF
No. 18 at 1. In late 2016, Rockwool began considering fifty
sites as locations for its new manufacturing facility in the
United States. Id. Rockwool was recruited to Ranson,
West Virginia by a “wide array of state and local
officials.” Id. In connection with those
recruiting efforts, local officials, including the BOE,
offered Rockwool tax incentives if it agreed to build its new
facility in Ranson, West Virginia. Id. Rockwool
accepted that offer, and in October 2017, Rockwool entered
into a Payment in Lieu of Taxes Agreement
(“PILOT”) with the BOE and others. See
ECF No. 18-1.
November 2017, Rockwool began site preparation and
construction on its new facility. ECF No. 18 at 2. To date,
Rockwool has spent more than $49 million on permitting,
constructing and extending utilities to its new facility.
Id.; see Peter Regenberg Hr'g Test.
However, since beginning construction, Rockwool has faced
significant public backlash, not present during the
negotiation of the PILOT agreement, over health concerns
related to the facility's potential emissions. For
example, Jefferson County citizens have “implored the
[BOE] to either oppose the building of Rockwool or to request
additional information so that an informed decision could be
made regarding student safety.” ECF No. 34-3 at 4.
having signed the PILOT agreement, demonstrating support for
the Rockwool facility, the BOE now opposes the construction.
Specifically, the BOE has publicly withdrawn its support for
the Rockwool facility, demanded a
“non-negotiable” independent human health risk
assessment, requested a moratorium on construction, and
threatened to terminate the PILOT. ECF No. 34-3, 34-4. Most
recently, on April 9, 2019, the BOE informed Rockwool that it
intended to buy or condemn Rockwool's land, identifying
the need for a Regional Student Support Center
(“Student Support Center”).
on April 12, 2019, Rockwool filed the complaint in this
action seeking to enjoin the BOE from condemning its land.
ECF No. 1. Contemporaneously, Rockwool filed a motion for a
temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction. ECF
No. 2. The Court scheduled a hearing on Rockwool's motion
for April 30, 2019. ECF No. 5. Prior to that hearing, the BOE
filed a motion to dismiss or abstain. ECF No. 19. Therein,
the BOE argues that the Court must dismiss Rockwool's
claims for lack of jurisdiction, or in the alternative, the
Court should abstain from hearing Rockwool's
the BOE did not request a hearing on its motion, in the
interest of judicial economy and without any objection, the
Court heard the motion to dismiss or abstain on April 30,
2019, prior to the hearing on the motion for a preliminary
injunction. For the reasons provided herein, the Court denied
the motion to dismiss or abstain.
the BOE argued that Rockwool's claims must be dismissed
because they are not ripe under Williamson.
Williamson, the Supreme Court announced two
requirements before a takings claim is ripe. Williamson
Cty. Reg'l Planning Comm'n v. Hamilton Bank of
Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172 (1985). First, the Supreme
Court held that a takings claim is not ripe until the
government entity responsible for the taking has made a final
decision regarding the property at issue. Id. at
186. This requirement is known as the “finality”
requirement. Next, the Court held that a takings claim is not
ripe if the property owner has not sought “compensation
through the procedures the State has provided for doing
so.” Id. at 194. This is known as the
“exhaustion” requirement. In a subsequent
decision, the Supreme Court acknowledged that forcing a
property owner to litigate its takings claims in state court
“may well deprive plaintiffs of the ‘right'
to have their federal claims relitigated in federal
court.” San Remo Hotel, L.P. v. City and Cty. of
San Francisco, 545 U.S. 323, 342 (2005). Nevertheless, a
takings claim that does not meet the ripeness requirements
must be dismissed. Id.
Findings of Fact and ...