Agribusiness coalition sues Canyon County land use planning

krodine@idahostatesman.comAugust 23, 2013 

The Coalition for Agriculture’s Future, a Meridian-based group of agribusinesses, agriculture associations and other businesses, wants a judge to restrain Canyon County from rezoning or granting non-agricultural conditional use of land designated for agriculture in the county comprehensive plan.

The coalition filed suit against the county Aug. 12, contending that all county land-use decisions and zoning ordinance changes since May 2011 are invalid because, it alleges, the county did not follow state law for adopting its updated comprehensive plan and including a future land use map. The plan, intended to guide Canyon land use through 2020, initially had no agricultural component, and when it was amended to address agriculture a few months later, no map was attached to the resolution or the plan, the coalition says in the complaint.

Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor Zach Wesley said the county can’t comment on the allegations or issues because litigation is pending. Coalition Executive Director Roger Batt did not return messages seeking comment.

“Agricultural lands in Canyon County are being lost to residential development without consideration of Canyon County’s stated goal to preserve and protect agricultural lands,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit does not name any specific county actions or conversions of farmland, but in May the coalition raised concerns about plans to relocate the Canyon County Fairgrounds — now inside the Caldwell city limits and long cramped for space — to an 80-acre stretch of farmland at U.S. 20-26 and Prescott Lane north of Nampa. In a news release, the coalition said the plan’s “commercial nature” would be incompatible with surrounding land use and violates the county’s comprehensive plan.

The coalition is headed by Crookham Co. President George Crookham and includes several other large Treasure Valley seed companies. It was formed about four years ago with the goal of protecting the area’s agricultural lands and farm-based economy from urban enroachment. Other members include J.R. Simplot Co., Atlas Products, the Canyon County Farm Bureau, the Idaho Crop Improvement Association, financial organizations and dairy, mint, and seed industry associations.

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