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Hog Farm Issue Returns

A controversial matter that made headlines more than a decade ago resurfaced last Wednesday when Link Farms, Inc. filed a motion in Halifax County Circuit Court seeking partial summary judgment against the Halifax County Board of Supervisors.

A hearing before Judge James A. Luke has been set for Friday, March 12, in Halifax County Circuit Court.

The case arises from the supervisors’ adoption of a resolution that prohibited county staff from certifying that any proposed confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) was consistent with the county’s zoning ordinances when the county had no such ordinances regulating CAFOs, according to the complaint.

In 1998, Link Farms sought a modification of its permit to expand its swine CAFO to approximately 8,500 swine that would be sheltered in 10 houses.  Since 1996, the farm consisted of 2,700 swine divided among three houses, according to the document.

“This case also arises from and challenges the county’s refusal, based on the moratorium, to certify that Link Farms’ proposed expansion of its swine CAFO was in compliance with then-existing zoning laws,” the motion states.  “Link Farms’ motion for partial summary judgment seeks to resolve the underlying legal issue in this case – that the board lacked the authority under the laws of the commonwealth to adopt the moratorium.”

The motion alleges, “With full knowledge of Link Farms’ proposed expansion on Dec. 7, 1998, the board adopted the moratorium that prohibited the county’s staff from approving any local government ordinance forms (LGOF) in furtherance of applications for CAFO permits until the planning commission and the board could propose and adopt zoning ordinance amendments restricting such previously unregulated activities.

“As a direct consequence of the moratorium, when Link Farms submitted its LGOF to the county in July 1999, the county administrator (or his designee) refused to complete the form; and Link Farms was unable to complete its application to DEQ for its proposed expansion,” the motion states.

Link Farms’ lawyers assert that precedent is on their side, citing Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County v. Horne, where the Supreme Court of Virginia held that the board lacked the authority to adopt an ordinance creating a moratorium, “similar to the moratorium in this case.”

“Importantly, the General Assembly has not enacted any legislation in the 34 years since Horne was decided to alter the fundamental principle of Virginia law that a local government cannot adopt a moratorium,” the motion states.

Thus, Link Farms is asserting that the moratorium adopted by the Halifax County Board is a void act and is asking the court to enter an order granting its motion for partial summary judgment declaring the moratorium invalid and granting Link Farms any further relief as the court deems appropriate.