WATERVILLE — Chelan County and its Natural Resources director were sued Friday by owners of a proposed 250-acre Stemilt Basin cherry orchard.
Wheeler Ridge alleges the county and Mike Kaputa interfered with its plans to plant cherry trees outside Wenatchee by providing misleading and false permitting information, omitting application materials to reviewing agencies and taking years to issue decisions that the county code and state law require to be issued in a matter of weeks.
“We’ve bent over backward to seek assistance and to be responsive to the county,” said Ben Alworth, Wheeler Ridge’s director of support operations, in a news release Friday afternoon. “At this point, the county gave us no choice but to call foul.”
The lawsuit claims tortious interference, failure to comply with the state Public Records Act, acting beyond the scope of its authority, civil conspiracy, and seeks damages in an amount to be determined at trial.
The project has been under county review for more than two years. Wheeler Ridge claims to have suffered more than $16 million in damages.
The Wenatchee Sportsmen Association and state Department of Fish and Wildlife have expressed concern about the impact the orchard could have on elk habitat.