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Chicken farm

A "zoning action in progress" sign marked the location of a proposed poultry operation at 13350 W. Wittstruck Road last year.

Two women have appealed a Lancaster County District Court judge’s ruling allowing the construction of a large poultry operation in the southwest part of the county.

Janis Howlett and Jane Egan filed the appeal last week seeking to overturn Judge Jodi Nelson’s ruling.

Howlett and Egan had appealed the Lancaster County Board’s 3-2 vote last year in favor of a 190,000-bird poultry farm that would raise broiler chickens for the Costco processing plant in Fremont.

Randy Essink wants to build four barns on 80 acres he owns at 13350 W. Wittstruck Road, near the Saline County line.

Nelson last month ruled that the County Board’s approval of the operation was legal and proper.

In her ruling, she said the application by Randy Essink for an operation raising broiler chickens "not only meets, but exceeds the criteria for approval as set forth in the zoning regulations."

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The application was approved 6-3 by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission and 3-2 by the County Board despite heavy opposition from neighbors, environmental groups and others.

Lancaster County classifies poultry operations as feedlots and requires a special permit, but there are virtually no set regulations for the permit.

In her ruling, Nelson said the concerns raised by opponents are "generally speculative and not supported by any credible expert testimony.

"The evidence shows that a great deal of work has gone into the planning of this operation," Nelson wrote, noting that the Essink project would be one of dozens of operations raising chickens for Costco.

On Thursday the County Board denied an application for a special permit for another Costco poultry operation, at Northwest 27th Street and West Ashland Road in northwest Lancaster County. It would be twice the size of the Essink operation.

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