Plans for large Linn County hog farm bring out neighbors

Attorney: 'This isn't farming ... this is a factory'

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Neighbors to a proposed hog confinement operation near Center Point brought their concerns with the plan to Linn County supervisors Monday morning.

"No matter how you look at this, it's a bad idea," Richard Garberson told supervisors at Monday morning's work session. "It couldn't possibly be at a worse location."

Garberson, an attorney who lives in southeast Cedar Rapids, said Matt Ditch's planned 5,661-hog facility at 4853 W. Otter Rd. would threaten Garberson's effort to reclaim a former quarry about 1.25 mile southwest.

"This isn't farming that's proposed here," Garberson said. "This is a factory that's going to cause all kinds of mischief in the neighborhood."

"Our family has a heritage and a reputation in the agricultural community of Center Point," said Ditch, who said he'll live at the confinement site with his family. "This community is a part of me and my family in many ways. I would not do anything to hurt it."

After hearing from neighbors for more than an hour, Supervisors Linda Langston and Lu Barron said they'd vote against a county recommendation supporting Ditch's plan. The board votes Wednesday on its recommendation to the state Department of Natural Resources, which issues permits for large livestock confinements.

"Linn County is an urban county, and it's not appropriate," Barron, D-Cedar Rapids, said of Ditch's plan. "We've got a few, but in very rural areas."

Langston, also a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said she won't support Ditch's plan "largely because of the community. I think that holds some sway."

Several of the approximately 75 people who filled the supervisors' chambers questioned Ditch's application for a permit from the state Department of Natural Resources. The application includes a 14-page "master matrix" score sheet that awards points for design elements such as distance from residential areas or wells and manure-management plans.

Ditch's plan scored 450 points, with 440 needed for a permit.

"We can shave close to 100 points off that," said Regina Behmlander. She said odors from Ditch's proposed facility will threaten the health of her children, who have respiratory ailments.

"We will have to sell our house, and the data states that the value of our home will be half" its earlier value, Behmlander said.

Les Beck, the county's planning and zoning director, said there are four confinement operations in the county subject to DNR's permitting process. That process applies to livestock operations of more than 1,000 cows or 2,500 hogs, said DNR spokeswoman Karen Grimes.

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