When neighbors go to court

as published by Capital Press

John Gilmour, owner of a straw-compressing facility near Albany, Ore., won his dispute with neighbors who objected to his business.
John Gilmour, owner of a straw-compressing facility near Albany, Ore., won his dispute with neighbors who objected to his business. Photo by Mateusz Perkowski/Capital Press

An Albany, Ore., farmer has won a legal challenge against his straw compressing facility launched by his neighbors and now wants the plaintiffs to cover his legal bills.

The neighbors, happy to shell out money to put him out of business, didn’t count on losing and having to pony up for his defense. Pay back, they say, is a … disappointment.

Farmer John Gilmour operates a straw compressing facility on a farm he owns in Linn County. He uses the facility to prepare 5,000 tons of straw he produces and 25,000 tons from other farmers. Compressing straw into tighter bales makes easier its overseas shipment.

Gilmour initially applied for a conditional-use permit from Linn County, which viewed the operation as an agricultural processing plant not covered by the property’s agricultural zoning. The county granted the permit, but restricted the hours and days the facility could operate and regulated the routes available to trucks servicing the business.

But Gilmour said the conditions set out under the county’s permit made his business less competitive. He appealed to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, or LUBA. The board ruled for Gilmour, holding that compressing straw or hay into tighter bales is not “processing,” but instead is a form of crop preparation allowed on land zoned for farm use.

LUBA said Gilmour doesn’t need a permit to operate the facility.

That didn’t sit well with neighbors of the facility, who weren’t all that happy that the county had granted it a conditional-use permit in the first place. They say the facility, a relative newcomer to their rural neighborhood, takes in as many as 20 semi-trucks a day on their small road. One resident complained the neighborhood had taken on an industrial character.

Backed by two conservation groups, the neighbors appealed LUBA’s ruling to the Oregon Court of Appeals. They argued LUBA should have deferred to Linn County’s determination that compressing straw meets the definition of processing.

Instead, the court sided with LUBA and Gilmour. It ruled that straw-compressing is crop “preparation” allowed outright on farmland.

“The record reflects that the straw is unchanged in substance from when it is first baled in the field to when it is packaged for resale,” the appellate court said.

LUBA and the court are right, and the rulings provide important protections for farmers.

Now Gilmour has asked the court to order his neighbors to pay his legal fees — $50,911. Sauce for the goose, but not unexpected when neighborhood disputes are handled by lawyers and not by neighbors.

The neighbors’ complaints are not without merit. Many have lived peacefully for years on their rural acreages before Gilmour built his facility. No doubt its operation has made their lives less pleasant, perhaps even more dangerous.

But the zoning that makes possible their rural acreages makes possible Gilmour’s business. One of the consequences of living on farmland for its aesthetics is having to tolerate actual farming operations and the legitimate commercial enterprises they produce.

Read more HERE

Reposted by Free Range Report Admin.  8/27/16

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