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Barrs' rezoning case dismissed

The court case Bruce and Paula Barr brought against Grundy County for not granting their rezoning request was voluntarily dismissed last month by the Barrs.

In 2011, the Barrs were denied by Grundy County a request to rezone their 57 acres at 3245 Southmor Road from Agriculture-Residential zoning to just Agricultural zoning. Throughout the process, numerous neighbors objected to the rezoning because Barr allegedly told one of the neighbors he intended to put in a pig farm on the property.

This past summer, the Barrs' original complaint against the county was dismissed, but their lawyer, Frank Cortina, amended the complaint, which was originally in court in November and again in January.

In November, Judge Robert Marsaglia dismissed one of two of their counts. The Barrs had asked the court to force the county to grant the rezoning request through a "writ of mandamus," which is a judiciary remedy to obligate government to do an act. Marsaglia said he did not think the plaintiff could plead for this. In court, the county's lawyer, Julie Tappendorf, argued "mandamus" cannot be used for zoning issues because it is discretionary, not a right.

In January, the Barrs told the judge they wanted to dismiss their case all together.

"I determined he does not need agriculture zoning for what he wants to do," Cortina said.

He said for the Barrs' plans they not only don't need to be rezoned, but there is nothing the county can do to stop them either. Cortina said there are supreme court cases that indicate, for some agricultural uses, there does not need to be county zoning action if there are no set back requirements.

Cortina said Barr will construct some buildings on his property for livestock.

"We never took the position that he needed an extreme amount of livestock," he said. "That came from the neighbors."

"I don't think he is going to create any neighborhood issues (with his plans)," Cortina continued.

The neighbors also hired a lawyer for this case to protect their properties. For months prior and up to the county's vote against the rezoning, nearby residents came out in significant numbers protesting the re-zoning request.

The neighbors protested because a rumor circulated that a pig farm would be put on the property, which is surrounded by both farming and residential properties. Neighbor Ray Grossi testified multiple times that Barr told him he intends to put in a 1,000-hog confinement on the land.

The county's lawyer, Tappendorf, said the county nor the neighbors objected to the Barrs' motion to dismiss the case in January. The judge dismissed it without prejudice so the issue could come back before the court. Tappendorf said the Barrs' attorney said at the hearing they were going to move forward with their plans because he did not believe they would need county permission.

"He advised them they didn't need zoning relief, which means it is sort of a waiting game to see," said Tappendorf.

She said the judge commented that he didn't believe the county would agree with his assessment and that he expected he would see all of them in his courtroom again.

The county will continue to enforce the property's A-R zoning regulations, she said.

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