Smelly public nuisance or just a deadbeat company?
Those are some of the questions surrounding a lawsuit being filed by the city of Irwindale against a company that makes a super-hot favorite hot sauce.
Two years after Irwindale city officials dropped a lawsuit against the Sriracha hot sauce factory and tabled a resolution declaring the factory a public nuisance, the San Gabriel Valley municipality is suing the company again for more than $400,000 in unpaid fees.
The city filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court against Huy Fong Foods, alleging breach of a disposition and development agreement and of various conditions, convenants and restrictions.
John Tate, an attorney who represented the firm during the previous litigation, did not immediately return a call for comment.
The firm says it wants to meet with local residents who originally objected to smells coming from the factory, but while the city says OK to the proposed meeting, it says the real issue is with the company’s failure to pay owed money.
The dispute between the city and the factory began in 2013 after residents complained of a spicy odor that caused headaches, heartburn and watery eyesight.
City officials dropped the first lawsuit after finding that Huy Fong Foods made a written commitment to solving the smell issues. The South Coast Air Quality Management District did not find evidence of a harmful air quality violation.
The new lawsuit alleges the company is not abiding by a 2009 agreement in which it pledged to pay $250,000 a year to the city for a decade in lieu of the payment of taxes. The company paid the money the first three years from 2012-14, but failed to pay the next installment in 2015, the suit says.
The factory and the city reached an agreement for Huy Fong to pay the fourth and fifth payments by last November and the sixth installment by January 2017, according to the suit.
But the firm notified the city last August that it would not make further what it called “contributions” to the city until a meeting was arranged with “any and all complaining residents that have or have had issues with” Huy Fong Foods, the suit states.
The city responded that the money due involved agreed-upon payments and not contributions, and that it was open to setting up the meeting, but believed the odor issues were not “an outstanding issue.” But the company still owes the city the fourth and fifth payments, minus what it paid in business license fees to City Hall, the suit states.
In March, the city sent the company a letter of default, according to the lawsuit.
— City News Service
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