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Ag coalition opposes proposed subdivision

Sean Ellis

Capital Press

A coalition of 25 ag-related businesses has decided to formally oppose a proposed 50-acre residential subdivision that would be located in the middle of farmland in Canyon County. This is the second farm group that is opposing the 44-home project.

NAMPA, Idaho — A coalition of agricultural groups in southwestern Idaho will formally oppose Lake Hazel Estates, a proposed 44-home subdivision that would be located in the middle of farmland.

The decision by the Coalition for Agriculture’s Future mirrors a similar effort by Citizens Opposed to Lake Hazel Estates, a group of seven farmers who have a total of 1,000 acres of farmland surrounding the proposed 50-acre project.

The COLHE group will fight the project in district court, while CAF will send Canyon County commissioners a letter outlining its opposition to the project.

CAF, made up of 25 agribusinesses and ag-related associations, was formed in 2008 to help stem the rapid loss of farmland in Canyon County.

CAF officials in a news release called the project a “classic example of the worst kind of spot zoning.”

CAF members believe the project is incompatible with the surrounding farmland.

The CAF news release noted the planned development is about two miles from the nearest residential subdivision services and would be located directly across from a dairy.

“The proposed residential subdivision is absolutely incompatible in every respect with upward of 12 square miles of agricultural lands that surround the site,” CAF Chairman George Crookham stated in the news release. “It is a relic of the darkest days of a ‘development at any cost’ mentality that resulted in the loss of thousands of acres of valuable agricultural land over the past two decades.”

A Bureau Reclamation study found that 25 percent of the county’s ag land was lost to development between 2000 and 2007. That trend slowed considerably during the recession but CAF officials worry it’s picking up again.

Crookham told the Capital Press that the rapid development that has occurred in the county is threatening the region’s important seed industry. More than 40 different seed crops are grown in Canyon County and shipped to 120 different countries.

A CAF member that sells lettuce seed all over the world recently had to take hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of production overseas “because he couldn’t find enough ground here to get his crop produced,” Crookham said.

Crookham said CAF is not anti-growth, “we just want it to make sense and not be plopped in the middle of farmland.”

Farmer Craig Lindquist, a spokesman for the COLHE group, said landowners with property adjacent to the project were never notified by mail of a public hearing where Canyon County commissioners extended a conditional use permit for the proposal.

That will be one of the group’s main points in court.

Commissioner Steve Rule said that county legal counsel agrees with the county’s development services division that the landowners were properly notified.

Rule said that if the county had not extended the CUP, it could have been sued by the developer because the county had already approved the project.

He said he decided to vote “on the side of the least chance of the county getting sued.”



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