Neighbors sue over marijuana grow

A number of residents of the Butte Creek Estates area in rural Lebanon filed a civil lawsuit on Dec. 1 against the owners and associated individuals of a property in the rural neighborhood.

The plaintiffs say they have been damaged by a marijuana grow at the property on Hillside Lane.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Eugene by Tami and Robert Ainsworth, Karl and Lucinda Frink, Gordon and Elaine Griswold, John and Linda Lindsey, and William and Suzanne Whitaker – all land owners who live on Hillside Lane or Butte Creek Road, off of Rock Hill Drive.

The owners of the property named in the suit are Mark Allen Owenby and Michelle Annette Page, who live in Albany.

Also named in the complaint are Jenny Rebecca Silveira, Howard Dee Brown, III, William Walter Templeton, Jr. Elisha Templeton, Bryan David Philp and Guild Mortgage Company.

The complaint accuses the defendants of violating federal racketeering law and causing a private nuisance.

According to the Linn County Planning and Building Department the land is zoned for limited farm use, which does not include the “production, processing, wholesaling, retailing, research or testing of marijuana.”

A complaint was filed with the county Planning Department on June 19 of this year, but Senior Planner Alyssa Boles said its contents are confidential.  She said that a code enforcement officer was sent to the location and a letter was sent to Owenby on June 23.

He responded in person at the county office on June 28 and submitted a letter on June 29.

The contents of the letter are protected under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Boles said.

HIPAA provides privacy protections for medical information.

“Based on what we know, they say they are being compliant with what they are permitted to do,” Boles said.

The county does not regulate medical marijuana, the state does.

“Information about particular patients and growers, and patients who grow for themselves, is all confidential,” said Jonathan Modie, a spokesman for the Oregon Health Authority.

On July 28 of this year, the Planning Department approved a permit to build a 30 by 196 foot greenhouse on Owenby and Page’s property.

The plaintiffs say in the lawsuit that  odor, noise and an increase in traffic have affected their quality of life and they no longer feel safe in their neighborhood.

Before December of 2016, Butte Creek Road and Hillside Lane, both dead-end roads, had very little vehicle traffic, and that was from residents, according to the complaint.

“There was so little concern about crime that plaintiffs and their neighbors routinely left the doors to their houses and outbuildings unlocked, even when they were not at home,” the complaint states.

The Frinks, who live on Hillside Lane, installed a surveillance system, a security system and fencing and gates, according to the document.

The plaintiffs and other neighbors formed a Neighborhood Watch group, according to the complaint, because in September 2017, two reports about prowling and a break-in were filed with the Linn County Sheriff’s Department.

“We really haven’t been called out there much at all,” said LCSO Lt. Michelle Duncan.

A check of calls in the last five years turned up one call for an alarm and a dog at large at one plaintiff’s address. At another plaintiff’s address a neighbor called LCSO to check on the property because a light was left on in the house, Ducan said. The house was secure.

The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane.

Discovery in the case is to be completed by April 4, 2018, according to the court docket. A Joint Alternate Dispute Resolution Report is due by May 4, 2018.