U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Austin McHugh Jr.
PHILADELPHIA – A district court has dismissed a tortious interference claim counterclaim filed against East Rockhill Township over a reactivation of a quarry.
U.S. District Judge Gerald Austin McHugh for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on June 4 granted the Township's motion to dismiss claims filed by Richard E. Pierson Materials Corp. alleging tortious interference with contractual relations.
The East Rockhill Township Board of Supervisors denied a request filed by Pierson asking that the zoning be changed to allow for the reactivation of a quarry in the township. The quarry would include an asphalt plant that would be run by Hanson Aggregates, a plan that has been met with opposition from locals.
"After balancing all of the restatement factors, I conclude that the allegations set forth in the Counterclaim do not suffice to establish Township officials acted improperly," McHugh worte. "Absent clear allegations that they knew their decisions were totally without any colorable legal foundation, or that they acted with corrupt motives, their efforts to regulate the reactivation of the quarry, including the asphalt plant, were privileged and justified."
Attorneys for Pierson argued several members of the East Rockhill Township Board of Supervisors interfered with contractual relations between Pierson and Hanson during the application process. Pierson alleges that supervisors knew they lacked the authority to regulate the quarry and acted improperly in response to local residents’ opposition, the suit contends.
McHugh ruled "such action is unrelated to any legitimate government goal, because responding to citizen concerns about maintaining current land use in the face of proposed changes falls well within the realm of legitimate government goals."
The quarry had laid dormant since the 1980s until work began in 2018 after Hanson leased the site from Pierson and began operating it for asphalt materials. According to local news reports, in 2017, Pierson obtained a $224 million contract from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to provide asphalt for a seven-mile project on the Northeast Extension.