PLATTSMOUTH – Before a large crowd of supporters and opponents, the Cass County Planning Commission on Monday evening approved a conditional use permit for the construction of a chicken breeder operation on a farm near Elmwood.
The issue will now go before the county’s Board of Commissioners for a final decision on Sept. 17.
Monday’s vote was a unanimous 8 to 0 decision.
The requested permit that went before the commission involves the construction of a chicken breeder operation involving up to 65,000 chickens on rural, private land owned by the Tom and Kaylyn Jackman family. It would be located about two miles east of Elmwood on U.S. Highway 34.
The purpose of the operation would be to collect eggs laid by the hens and then send them to a Fremont-area hatchery run by Lincoln Premium Poultry.
Monday’s vote pleased the company and the Jackman family, said spokeswoman Jessica Kolterman.
“The planning commission took the facts that were presented and made a decision that will help grow the county and provide a farm family the opportunity to diversify and preserve their farm for another generation,” Kolterman said.
The operation would be inside four barns situated on eight to 10 acres.
Speaking before the commission, Mike Jensen, the county’s zoning director, described the operation as a “typical farming activity.”
Kaylyn Jackman mentioned that the farm has been in the family for 95 years and that the proposed investment would increase property tax revenue for the county.
“This is an opportunity to keep our farm in our family,” she told the commission.
The operation would employ between four and eight people, she added.
The birds would be in the barns for just 45 weeks of the year, Tom Jackman told the commission.
“There would be seven weeks of down time,” he said.
Only about five additional trucks per week would need to travel on that highway to and from that operation during most of the year, the commission was told.
Most of the speakers during the public hearing opposed the farm citing such concerns as health issues, odor, high water usage and lower property values for nearby residents.
“There are a lot of risks,” Elmwood resident Karey Koehn told the commission.
Potentially harmful contaminants in the air from that operation could pose health problems for her family, she added.
“This will have a negative impact on my family,” Koehn said.
The operation could also discourage population growth in the area, she added.
“People will not choose to move near a large confinement.”
Her daughter, Whitney Koehn, told the commission the proposed location of the farm would have a negative impact on residents nearby.
“A large operation like this should be further away from other farms and homes,” she said.
The commission was told, however, that the operation would be no closer than 1,980 feet from the nearest residence.
Residents also stressed that the farm’s increased water usage could negatively impact their own and that the facility would be located just three miles from an elementary school.
But, there were also supporters among the speakers. One of them was Jennifer Serkiz, director of the Cass County Economic Development Council.
“This will help our county grow and support diversification on our family farms,” Serkiz said.
She also provided a letter of support for the operation from Gov. Pete Ricketts because of the expanded property tax base it would create.
It was also brought out during the hearing that the increased property tax revenue from this project would provide that much more money for the local school district.
There was little discussion among the commissioners after the public hearing, though it was mentioned that some information provided more on swine than chickens.
After the vote, John Oehlerking, a supporter, said, “I think it’s a good deal. Economically, it makes sense.”
Understandably, Kaylyn Jackman said, “We’re very pleased.”
But not Karey Koehn.
“It’s what I expected,” she said.
The fact that all of the commissioners approved the proposed farm was “very disappointing” to her.
Nevertheless, she and others will continue to oppose the farm as it now goes to the Board of Commissioners, Koehn said.