Lawsuit Challenging Gage County Action on Chicken Farm Plan

BEATRICE – Controversy over a proposed chicken producing operation was the subject of a bench trial in Saline County District Court, Friday.  The lawsuit, filed by David Atkins against Gage County was being heard by Judge Vicky Johnson.

Opponents of a chicken facility that would be built near Cortland, in Gage County, contend the county board’s 4-3 vote approving the project was invalid.

The lawsuit filed by David Atkins contends a petition campaign against the facility required that the county board reach a super-majority of five votes, for project approval.   At issue is a petition submitted to board members on the same day the board held a public hearing on the special use permit application filed by Roy Mulder.  The petition included over 50 names of persons opposed to the project.  A threshold of 20% of owners of property near the proposed site is required, before a super-majority vote of approval is required.

The proposed project would have Mulder working to supply MBA Poultry of Tecumseh, with broilers.  An initial application failed to pass the county board on a 5-2 vote.  But, Mulder applied for a new special use permit for a scaled-down operation, which did receive approval last September, by the Gage County Board.  Each of six chicken houses would be capable of handling up to 25,000 birds…an operation that would grow free-range broilers.  It would be built along South 38th Road.

Mulder’s proposal has run into stiff opposition from owners of rural acreages in the area of planned operation, about two miles east of Cortland.  They are concerned primarily about potential odor and adverse effects on their property values.  They also cited concerns over water, dust, and roads in the area.

Attorneys for Atkins, Mulder and Gage County were before the judge, Friday.  Among witnesses called to testify were Atkins, petition circulators Jennifer and Jeffrey Oberg and Gage County Clerk Dawn Hill.

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