Features Nov 29, 2016 at 4:00 am

A 76-acre property on a progressive rural island in Washington State sounds like the perfect place for a grow op, doesn't it? That's not how the neighbors saw it.

FIELDSTONE FARM: The owners of the grow op thought this property was “a dream come true.” San Juan Sun Grown

Comments

1
This was an interesting article, but it misrepresents the legal principle central to the case.

...a "prescriptive easement," which in Washington allows passersby to use the right-of-way for all activities that have been "continuous and uninterrupted for 10 years."

Continuous use is not the only requirement to gain a prescriptive easement. Adverse usage is also a necessary element, and in similar cases to this one the WA Supreme Court has ruled that such usage is permissive ("neighborly acquiescence") rather than adverse. Perhaps this case would have gone differently if appealed all the way up, but it certainly isn't so clear cut as the author makes it out to be.
2
The plaintiffs come across as real assholes.
3

Any lawyers here?
Wonder if @1 is accurate?
4
As an islander what I find annoying is the folks who make booze and wine are not harassed. Neither are the folks who grow hops. But the people who want to grow weed, another legal crop, face nothing but grief. This is obstruction and it should be fought. And people who live in small villages can on occasion behave reprehensively.
5
I'm sympathetic, but from what I can tell from the article, the Prices fucked up pretty badly in not being ready for a challenge based on the written language of that easement. Seems likely they didn't know when they bought the property, or didn't care because she wasn't thinking of commercial growing at the time. I know if I had $1.5 million to sink into a new business, I wouldn't take the risk they did if I knew ahead of time the explicit wording of the easement. If they had consulted a land use attorney beforehand, I'm sure that person would have warned them.

Looks to me like this dispute wasn't really about anything to do with weed. I'm sure the neighbors would have opposed hot house flowers just as aggressively, and maybe gotten a lot less grief for it. But I suppose I wouldn't be reading this right now if the dispute had been about any other type of commercial growing. Weed!!
6
I don't really get where the permissive/adverse line lies. Is it normal neighborly acquiescence to allow a commercial stable on a residential easement? And the neighbors could have said no to the stable at any point too? How the hell can anyone tell what they're allowed to do?

Yeah, I know, consult a lawyer and they can tell you you can't be sure.
7
If you like to read about easements,
http://www.moeland.com/adverse.htm
10
Thank you for writing this excellent article. Uncle Ike's was a huge fan and supporter of San Juan Sungrown. David and Jenny Rice are a terrific family and run a first class operation. Our customers and team members really missed their product when it disappeared from our shelves. The whole thing was a sad saga and shows how the I502 industry still faces many challenges related to the stigma surrounding cannabis.

-Ike
11
Wouldn't there be a lot more trucks, workers, noise and pollution resulting from a commercial weed farm than there would be from a small horse farm? Also lots of pesticides and much, much higher water use. San Juan has limited fresh water, I've seen several places there that ask that you don't flush the toilet with every use, and their water pressure is quite low. The Rices should have talked to the neighbors before putting all that money into their weed operation. This article is very pro weed farmers, but would you want to live in a place where big trucks are constantly going through your land, and your well water might get contaminated with pesticides or dry up if the weed farm dig lots more wells on their land? Marijuana takes much more water to grow than many crops. If the neighbors are thy small farmers, their farms would suffer.

I don't think the reporter should have tried to make this case out to be a rich vs poor case; anyone who has 1.5 millions to put into a weed farm isn't poor! It also doesn't sound like an anti-weed problem. The Rices say that San Juan is their home, but they seem to disregard that it's also their neighbors' home. If the neighbors are older and wish to live there for the rest of their lives, having the constant noise, pollution, problems with pesticides, and water shortage would be a big burden, surely they are also entitled to some rights? Especially since there's no way for them to escape the trucks driving through their land. The easement is for residential use only, the Rices claim because the neighbors were nice and didn't complain about the horse farm, that means they can't complain about ANY commercial operation. I don't think that's how residential easements work, especially since the horse farm hasn't been there long enough to vest a right-of-way use. At least that's what I was told about my neighbor's use of part of my driveway.

I realize the Stranger is weed-friendly, but it is important for good reporters to not be biased in reporting, no?
13
@iseult
No pesticides...one of the only certified organic operations in Washington. There are not one, but two stands of trees (aka mini evergreen forests) and a massive field separating the farm and the neighbors. Making the operation impossible to see from their houses. No big trucks, just a few regular cars and trucks. It all came down to 10 feet of the long road did not have an easement. The neighbors are petty, awful, mean people that have caused serious strife and bad vibes in a community that we have all been proud to be a part of for generations. We all hope they move away and will boycott their businesses indefinitely.
14
Are the Nolans' catering and contracting businesses in lawful use of the easement? What's good for the goose is good for the gander... There are faults on both sides here, and it's a good object lesson in getting one's i's dotted and t's crossed before investing in and developing property, especially regarding use access, because NIMBY neighbors can exercise a lot of clout and cause a lot of hassle and delay even if they're in the wrong.

The judge's objectivity is in doubt here as well, exemplified by his use of the word "audacity" in describing respondent's legal challenges. At best that's intemperate language raising a valid question of his judicial temperament and appearance of fairness. I don't think his ruling on the easement restriction is wrong, though.
15
i would love if someone burned that island down and the natives moved back in..you know, the original inhabitants
16
This would be amusing if it weren't so sad. Did the Rices not know that the San Juans are probably the most NIMBY rural environment in the entire state? Not to mention that the neighbors all have substantial resources to engage you in whatever legal battle suits their fancy.

They might as well have tried to establish a grow op on Mercer Island.

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