YORK – During their regular meeting this week, the York County Commissioners discussed the allowance of 60-foot culverts for extra-wide entrances to a new chicken facility that will soon be constructed in the rural Benedict area.
They also talked about the condition of the road leading to the farm and its ability to handle a year-round truck traffic load of 40 per week.
“This application for culverts was brought to us by the Hirschfelds,” explained York County Commissioner Randy Obermier.
Hirschfeld Family Farms were recently granted a special exception permit for the new facility.
“They would like to put in two 60-foot culverts in entrances to the property,” Obermier said.
Typically an entrance such as this would measure 40 feet, it was explained.
Chad Hirschfeld said Costco (the company behind the production) is asking for the 60-feet allowance “for truck traffic and safety. They aren’t asking the county to pay for it, they just want permission to put it in. There would be no cost to the county.”
He said one entrance would be at the south side of the property, another would be on the north – they would be along Road H, between Roads 22 and 23.
“I’m for this project, I think it is great,” said Commissioner Bill Bamesberger. “But with this, we might be opening up a can of worms by setting precedence, because we’ve never gone over 40 feet, do we really need 60 feet there? I have a concern about that.”
“If it’s for a regular farm, you probably don’t need 60 feet, but here they will have trucks going in and out all year long, 40 a week,” said Commissioner Kurt Bulgrin. “It won’t be like a regular farm with trucks going in and out only during harvest time.”
Bulgrin made a motion to allow the 60-feet culverts/entrances with Commissioner Paul Buller seconding that motion.
“All they have to do is 40 feet because it could be one-way traffic with trucks going in at one point and exiting at another,” said York County Highway Superintendent Harvey Keim. “Forty feet is plenty and I don’t think you want to set precedence.”
“This is a different use, and I don’t think it’s a big deal,” said Commissioner Bulgrin.
“Obviously, we look at each situation, case by case,” Obermier said. “Could we say, if we are worried about drainage, that you can have the 60 feet, but you have to run the drainage to the ditch and not the road?”
“Well, if we will be requiring that of private landowners then we, the county, best be doing that too,” Bulgrin said. “I think that could be a good idea though.”
“And we will need to haul a lot of gravel to that road for 40 trucks a week, all year, and that will cost a lot of money,” Bamesberger said. “Will the county be able to bear that?”
“I think there could be some cooperation with that, with the landowner,” Obermier said.
“I’m for the project, but the additional cost – what will the benefit be versus the cost of the road?” Bamesberger said further.
“You are saying that every time someone puts in a chicken farm, they have to pay for the roads?” asked Bulgrin. “I think this is just the job of the county. When you get to picking and choosing who pays for a road, because of how they use their land – that’s a precedence I don’t think you want to set.”
“In Seward County, they only get a maximum of 50 feet,” Keim said, in reference to allowances being given to these new chicken farms. “Lancaster County is only authorizing 35 feet. So why do we need 60-foot driveways to get to this one?”
“What is the negative other than the water shed?” Obermier asked.
Keim said that several years ago, a landowner wasn’t allowed to put in driveways every 150 yards along his land and reiterated he was concerned about precedence.
“This will be handled in a case by case basis,” Obermier responded.
“What’s the down side of allowing this?” asked Commissioner Jack Sikes.
The original motion was amended to allow the 60-foot entrances/culverts, at the expense of the Hirschfelds, with the drainage being routed to the ditch and not the road.
“Is that doable?” Buller asked Hirschfeld, who responded that it was.
Buller also asked Keim if the road leading to this farm is built up enough to handle the high volume of trucks and if the ditches there need cleaning in order to handle the drainage.
Keim said the road and ditch work can’t be done until next year because county road crews are still working on FEMA projects related to flood damage from the spring.
“Also, no one told us about this project a year ago when we were planning the one- and six-year road program,” Keim said. “Either way, the FEMA projects have to be done first.”
When asked about the timeline of the construction of the chicken production facility, Hirschfeld said dirt moving equipment has already been moved in, with construction to start soon. There is also the potential that chickens will be able to arrive as early as April.
A vote was taken on the allowance, with all the commissioners agreeing to Hirschfeld’s application with the exception of Bamesberger.
“This project has been one of a kind for us,” Obermier said. “I hope the property owners will continue to work with the road department and we, the county, can continue to work with them.”