HANFORD – Helena Chemical Co. has filed a lawsuit against the city of Hanford over issues related to plans for the company to move away from Costco.
The legal complaint, filed April 11 in Kings County Superior Court, asks for $12 million in compensatory damages.
The complaint alleges that Helena got a raw deal from the city after John Kashian, the developer of the Costco center project, threatened to pull the plug on the project unless the city denied Helena's request to expand its agricultural chemical operations at the site.
Kashian declined to comment Wednesday.
Helena's facility on East Lacey Boulevard is located across the street from the Costco shopping center. Helena has been there since 2011, which was before the Costco development was proposed.
In 2014, the Hanford City Council approved a conditional use permit for Helena to expand its Lacey site.
The city also moved forward with plans to change zoning rules to allow Helena to continue operating at the site despite the fact that the fertilizer company's operations were considered incompatible with surrounding uses.
Almost immediately after the decision, Kashian threatened to pull the plug on the Costco shopping center project if the Helena expansion moved forward.
Kashian told the Sentinel at the time that Helena's proposed expansion wasn't compatible with the Costco project.
City Council members had a change of heart after that.
In a special meeting in November 2014, the council rescinded its earlier approval of the zoning change that would have allowed Helena to continue to operate and expand at the site.
The earlier approval was tentative and required a final council vote before it went into effect.
At the same meeting, the council and Helena agreed to move forward with a plan to move Helena's operations to the Kings Industrial Park south of Hanford-Armona Road, which is miles from Costco.
Negotiations between the city and Helena over the proposed relocation have dragged on ever since.
In that time, the city acquired right-of-way property from Helena that was needed for the city's project to relocate Lacey Boulevard to make room for Costco and build a roundabout on Highway 43.
The acquisition led to the demolition of Helena's offices and the removal of Helena's truck scale.
The city agreed to provide temporary office space and a temporary scale site for Helena until the business could move.
According to the lawsuit filed by Helena, the city hasn't followed through on its promise to pay for the cost of moving the company's operation to the industrial park.
The move would require the construction of storage tanks and other facilities similar to what Helena has at the Lacey site.
It's not clear from the lawsuit whether the $12 million Helena is asking for is what the company thinks it will cost to move.
No specific relocation cost estimate was provided.
Jan Kahn, a local attorney representing Helena, declined to comment.
"I will say, the city did anticipate this," said City Councilman Justin Mendes. "I look forward to the resolution."
Mendes referred further questions to City Attorney Ty Mizote.
Mizote said in an interview that the city is trying to work out a deal whereby the city would sell Helena some property in the industrial park and buy Helena's entire Lacey property.
Mizote said his understanding is that Helena wants to sell the Lacey site for enough money to cover relocation costs.
Mizote said Helena hasn't officially notified the city of the April 11 filing.
City Attorney Mario Zamora said Helena has a legal obligation to do so within 60 days of the filing.
Mizote and Zamora said they hadn't read the complaint.