Posted by: Patricia Salkin | September 14, 2020

PA Appeals Court Affirms Denial of Special Exception Permit for Egg Farm

This post was authored by Anthony Petruzzi, Touro Law Center

The owners of Heisler’s Egg Farm Inc. sought a special exception permit to expand the farm. The Walker Township Zoning Hearing Board denied the request. The applicant appealed.

The 55.4-acre farm was located on land zoned as an Enhanced Agricultural Preservation (EAP) Zoning District. The farm was used as a chicken farm and egg production facility that housed about 140,000 chickens. The farm also contained an egg wash system which was responsible for washing the eggs produced by the applicant’s chickens as well as eggs cultivated by third parties.

The applicant argued that they needed the requested expansion because they wished to replace the egg packing facility with a larger one, add two chicken laying barns which would increase the farms chicken capacity from about 140,000 to a maximum of 468,000, store the manure in a new manure storage building, and to treat the egg wash water with a 26,853 gallon wash water treatment facility.

The board cited several reasons for denying the special exception permit including the increase in severity of foul odors the farm would produce, the flies that the odors would attract, the increase in commercial truck traffic, property values of nearby properties, and the health and safety of neighbors in the neighborhood.

Unhappy with the Court of Common Pleas’ affirmation of the board’s decision, the applicant appealed to the trial court. The trial court affirmed the lower court’s decision and the applicant went on to appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

The applicant made three arguments on appeal. First, they argued that the trial court erred in reaching its conclusion that they were not entitled to an approval to their special exception permit. Second, that the trial court erred in determining that the odors, flies, and egg wash-water were material to their analysis because those issues were preempted by the NMA. Third, they argued that they satisfied all of the requirements for a special exception set forth in the applicable statutes. The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania was not moved by any of these arguments and affirmed the judgment of the lower courts.

Heisler’s Egg Farm, Inc v. Walker Township Zoning Hearing Board, 2020 WL 2754884 (3d Dept. 5/28/20)


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