Alleged pig farm gets day in court
Judge dismisses one count, plans written order on other in Barrs' suit against county
Grundy County Judge Robert Marsaglia has dismissed one of two counts in a Morris man's suit against Grundy County designed to make the county change his land zoning to potentially allow for a pig farm.
Bruce and Paula Barr were denied by Grundy County a request to rezone their 57 acres at 3245 Southmor Road from Agriculture-Residential zoning to just Agricultural zoning. Throughout the process, numerous neighbors objected to the rezoning because Barr allegedly told one of the neighbors he intended to put in a pig farm on the property.
This summer, the Barrs' original complaint against the county was dismissed, but their lawyer, Frank Cortina, amended the complaint, which is now in court.
On Tuesday, Judge Marsaglia said he would give a written order next month on the first count asking for a declaratory judgment.
The second count, which he dismissed with prejudice, asked the court to force the county to grant the rezoning request through a "writ of mandamus," which is a judiciary remedy to obligate government to do an act. Marsaglia said he did not think the plaintiff could plead for this.
In court, the county's lawyer, Julie Tappendorf, argued "mandamus" cannot be used for zoning issues because it is discretionary, not a right.
In December, the Grundy County Board voted 15-1 against the request by Barr that the county rezone his 57 acres from Agriculture-Residential to Agriculture. Because 20 percent of the landowners surrounding the property legally objected to the zoning change, it required a super majority vote.
For months prior and up to the vote, nearby residents came out in significant numbers protesting the re-zoning request. The neighbors protested because a rumor circulated that a pig farm would be put on the property, which is surrounded by both farming and residential properties.
Neighbor Ray Grossi testified multiple times that Barr told him he intends to put in a 1,000-hog confinement on the land.
Barr was not present at the court hearing Tuesday and never attended any of the committee nor board meetings on the subject. His attorney, Cortina, has maintained Barr wanted to farm the property and build farming structures, which was why he was asking for the zoning change. But county officials said Barr didn't need a zoning change for that and he could just request a variance.
As part of Barr's complaint, it states A-R restricts him "from having more than one farm animal per two acres," "from any contained animal husbandry," and "from all intensive agricultural uses," among other restrictions.
Cortina said in court the county's own land use plan promotes agricultural zoning, and that the property is best used for heavy agricultural use because of its low LESA score, which rates the condition of the land.
He said if the matter goes to trial he would show evidence that AR decreases the economic and financial viability of the property.
Tappendorf argued the Barrs have presented no facts that keeping the property AR would make it less valuable.
In fact, she said the property's low LESA score is exactly why the property should stay AR.
David Bzdill, attorney for the neighbors, added that the Barrs can do row farming on the property with the current zoning, as well as have some animals. The only thing they cannot do is have a large amount of animals, such as needed for a pig farm.