Egg farm permit
Local officials cautiously optimistic about denial
County and township officials said last week the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA)'s denial of the Hi-Q Egg Products facilities permit was well-received, but the door may not be closed on the matter.
"I felt that the decision that director (James) Zehringer made was really the only one he could make with everything that took place from the public hearing on," Union County commissioner Charles Hall said. "It was a situation that (former ODA director Robert Boggs) didn't want to make that decision, so he left it to him. And I cannot say that everything is done yet; I just don't think it's over."
Hall said if the Ohio legislature approves House Bill 229, it would limit local governments' ability to stand up to large developers who won't work with locals on issues such as infrastructure concerns.
"Just as I see it, they're wanting to take these CAFFs (confined animal-feeding facilities) and say that they're really agricultural family operations, and they shouldn't fall under some of those categories," he said.
The city of Marysville, located downstream from the site of the proposed egg farm, joined with township residents in 2008 by drafting a resolution of concern and objection to the proposed facility.
"It is possible that the waste generated by the Hi-Q proposed facility will cause runoff into the watershed that feeds the tributaries for the city of Marysville's drinking water supply, either directly from the proposed facility or when the waste is applied excessively to land within the watershed," Marysville's 2008 resolution stated.
Mayor John Gore said the city staff was pleased to hear that the issue had been decided in favor of York Township residents.
"We've supported the commissioners' position on this issue and we're thankful that at this time, with the resolution we passed, that our concerns are no more," Gore said. "The bottom line is that basically, we don't have to worry about that now."
York Township trustees said they could not speak about the egg farm because of an ongoing court case, but Prairie Township trustee Jeff Rosebrook said there are just too many chickens in the neighborhood for a new facility to be a good idea.
"That many chickens in one location, I think that definitely was not the right area for it," he said. "All of our little township roads would have been destroyed or would be constantly under repair. And the value of many of the homes in the Raymond and York Center area, their value would be cut in half.
"There has never been something this big to come in here - you ask yourself just what it would do to our air and water quality, and that's a question that can't be answered, because nothing like this has been here before."
Hall said that for much of the years-long process, the county had very few details with which to work.
"When it was first announced to us that Hi-Q wanted to build an egg facility, that was really about all that we heard," he said. "We didn't get a where or a when, just that we'd be kept informed. Then nothing transpired for a long time after that, but once things started progressing, they went extremely fast, and still we didn't know much.
"The county had concerns with the highways and roads in the township, and I know that some individuals from ODA thought we were stonewalling, but the truth of the matter is that Hi-Q didn't come forward and answer any of those questions we had. They were very blatantly not answering them.
"What we've spoken to through this whole process is to what we can and can't legally do," Hall said. "As far as I'm concerned, in conjunction with our engineer and prosecutor, we did everything by the law. And if some seem to think that we overstepped our bounds, everything we did along the way was approved by our county prosecutor."