A motion to alert property owners in Union County within a one-mile radius of a new or expanding confinement building could leave the county vulnerable to liability issues in property disputes.
The Union County Board of Supervisors determined it would need extensive research into a “good neighbor” motion proposed by Union County resident Karon Finn before considering it as an additional action taken by the board.
Currently, the Union County Board of Supervisors follows all the regulations set forth by the Iowa Code and Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regarding all animal confinements.
“The thing everyone needs to remember, the government is not involved in property disputes between neighbors,” Union County Attorney Tim Kinyon said. “It is not our place to take sides either way. When you start giving out notices, you are injecting yourself into somebody else’s dispute and expose yourself to liability.”
Finn worried residents do not have enough or any notice before construction starts on confinement buildings. She also said the confinements lower surrounding property values.
Board Chairman Ron Riley reiterated to Finn the steps the county supervisors follow, including the publication of a public notice in the newspaper. He also said proof of the publication and any public concerns must be submitted to the Iowa DNR, along with recommendations from the supervisors.
“I think it’s the right thing to do, the moral thing to do, and if we were always worried about making someone upset, we wouldn’t do anything,” Finn said at the meeting Monday.
Supervisor Lois Monday responded to Finn, “I think we can all understand those thoughts and views, and I can understand why they would want to know, but I do not know what is right and what is wrong.”
Kenyon compared the situation to zoning regulations inside the city limits of Creston. Only certain actions can be taken within a residential-zoned area, and if a landowner wants to do something not allowed in the zone, all neighbors must be notified.
Union County does not have zoning regulations and voters have denied county zoning in past elections.
Kenyon added any public hearing related to a good neighbor motion would serve little to no purpose because the county supervisors cannot take direct action against a confinement.
Only one county in Iowa has a good neighbor motion concerning the notification of property owners within one mile of a new or expanding confinement.
“We haven’t had any problems,” said Poweshiek County Auditor Diane Dawley. “We have had some out-of-state landowners call and inquire, but I don’t think we have ever had a negative response.”
Another concern of the Union County supervisors was if a landowner is unable to be contacted successfully.
Poweshiek maintains a “good-faith effort” in contacting landowners and renters.
Kenyon said omitting someone, even by accident, could be seen as negligence and leave the responsible party, in this case, the county, liable.