Farmers’ complaint about project heads to high court

Sean Ellis

Capital Press

A group of southwestern Idaho farmers that is trying to prevent a 44-acre subdivision from being built in the middle of 12 square miles of agricultural land has appealed its case to the Idaho Supreme Court.

NAMPA, Idaho — A small group of Canyon County farmers has turned to the Idaho Supreme Court in an attempt to stop a 44-home subdivision from being developed in the middle of 12 square miles of agricultural land.

The group appealed to the high court after Third District Judge Molly Huskey declined to hear their court complaint that seeks to overturn the Canyon County Commission’s decision to extend a conditional use permit for the 50-acre project.

The group of six farmers, Citizens Opposed to Lake Hazel Estates, say the county failed to notify area residents of the public hearing in which the three-year permit was approved.

“We’re asking the Supreme Court to ask the judge … to at least hear our case,” said group spokesman Craig Lindquist. “We would just like her to hear the merits of our case. We think we have a legitimate argument.”

Lindquist grows sugar beets, carrot seed, wheat and corn on 66 acres bordering the proposed project, which is on Lake Hazel Road just west of its intersection with McDermott Road.

Seven farmers in the area have about 1,000 total acres contiguous to the project, including a 1,000-cow dairy, Lindquist said. In a previous news release, the Coalition for Agriculture’s Future, which represents 25 agribusinesses and ag-related associations, called the proposed development a “classic example of the worst kind of spot zoning.”

CAF sent a letter to the county outlining its opposition to the project.

The commission approved a conditional use permit for the project in 2007 and on Feb. 2, 2012 granted a three-year extension. The county accepted a preliminary plat for the development on Nov. 22, 2013.

COLHE members said they were never legally notified by mail of the hearing in which the permit was extended and argue that makes both the extension and plat void.

Their complaint also alleges the county “failed to properly evaluate, consider and protect agricultural services and uses.”

According to court records, project engineer Jason Densmer testified before the county commission that the applicant brought the application back again because of improving economic conditions in Canyon County. He also said the project is substantially the same as the preliminary plat that had been approved but expired.

The applicant, Edward Berr, testified that a lawsuit filed after the project lender delayed its commitment put the project on hold after the initial application was approved.

He said the project is an agricultural subdivision with 1.25-acre parcels that are big enough for homeowners to farm and ranch on a small scale.

Lindquist said the size of those lots aren’t big enough to justify putting the words “agricultural” and “subdivision” together.

“You can put a personal garden in but you couldn’t grow enough product to go to the farmers’ market,” he said.


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