Judge Rejects Costco's Plan for New Lancaster County Chicken Barns

May 28, 2021, 3:27 p.m. ·

Costco rotisserie chicken on display in a store
Costco rotisserie chicken on display in a store. (Photo by Bella Gaia)

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Costco’s plans for a huge chicken farm north of Lincoln have been scuttled by a Lancaster County District judge. Neighbors to the facility near Raymond successfully sued to block a special use permit needed to begin construction.

The order from Lancaster District Judge Jodi Nelson denied the special zoning permit required to build a commercial feedlot on agricultural land surrounded by fast-growing residential sub-divisions. The order stated the poultry barns would “more likely than not have negative effects… on health, safety, and general welfare.”

Highlighted text from Judge Nelson's court order

Eight 40-thousand square foot barns would have been located on the site, housing almost 400,000 chickens at a time. A separate building would also compost thousands of dead birds.

Neighbors and the school district filed suit to block the project. During the trial a series of experts provided testimony about the traffic, loss of property value, and the potential of toxic dust being blown off the grounds and into homes and the school.

The sponsoring company, Lincoln Premium Poultry, had two witnesses testify in defense of the project attempting to refute the opponents claim, but according to a statement released by the company “due to procedural matters, much of the testimony was thrown out.”

What was not included in the company’s application appeared to have significance to the court. In her order blocking the permit, Judge Nelson wrote: “There is no evidence in the record as to any findings or recommendations, if any, from the Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department or any Natural Resource District. There is no evidence of the percentage of the proposed poultry operation would be odor-annoyance free.”

Company spokesperson Jessica Kolterman, via email, wrote “It’s unfortunate that the courts did not recognize the guidance as originally laid out in the zoning guidelines. We wish the best for the farm family who only wanted to use their agricultural land for an agricultural purpose.”

EDITOR”S NOTE: An earlier version of the story stated: “The sponsoring company, Lincoln Premium Poultry, provided no witnesses to refute the claims.” Statements clarifying the scope of the company’s testimony have been included in this revision.