Leahy attorney files injunction against Heartland
Fairfield Attorney David Sykes said he has filed temporary and permanent injunctions against Heartland Co-op with the Jefferson County District Court.
Sykes has been hired as lead attorney by Overland Sheepskin Company and members of the Leahy family to represent their interests in the issue of a proposed grain elevator facility to be built at Nutmeg Avenue and Highway 34.
“The first step is the temporary injunction,” said Sykes. “We will make arguments to the court that this facility will be harmful to our client. We are asking the court to intercede until such time that Heartland, Overland and the Leahys can argue their cases in court.”
The Leahy family, owner of Overland Sheepskin Company and Blue Fish clothing store in Fairfield, owns 80 acres across Nutmeg Avenue from Heartland’s property. The family has four homes there and a llama farm, as well as the Overland Sheepskin store.
“We’re hoping to get Heartland to relocate the site of this facility,” said Roger Leahy. “It didn’t really consult any neighbors.”
The Leahys also hired Dean Draznin Communications in Fairfield to facilitate public relations. In a news release Monday, Draznin said the legal services of the Davis Brown law firm in Des Moines has been engaged to work closely with Sykes’ team.
“At this time, all legal options are being considered, including a recent letter sent by counsel directly to the Heartland CEO, and their filing on behalf of Overland and the Leahy family for immediate injunctive relief with the courts,” wrote Draznin.
Not against farmers
Draznin said the attorneys want to make clear their clients fully support traditional agriculture, farming neighbors and the need for grain elevators as well as the value of transporting agricultural products to market in the most cost-efficient manner.
Roger Leahy said today he isn’t against Heartland Co-op building a grain elevator and providing another market for farmers. He and his family are concerned about the size of the project and the noise and traffic it will generate 100 yards from his family’s homes.
“The legal issues in this matter solely concern the potential nuisance and quality of life injury this grain elevator will cause due to its siting directly across the street from their client’s corporate headquarters, homes and farm,” wrote Draznin in Monday’s news release.
“The legal team is very concerned that Heartland has not provided, to date, any environmental, health, economic, or traffic impact reports, given the enormity of the project and the amount of truck and train traffic it will generate.”
Leahy said his brother went to talk to then-director Tracy Vance of Fairfield Economic Development Association when the Heartland project first became public in mid-December.
“He was told the design was private and no photos or details were released. We pictured a grain facility along the lines of Reiff Grain. I thought the elevators would be located near the railroad tracks, not right here on the corner.
“It wasn’t until after the supervisors meeting April 7 and I talked with Todd Phillips and I asked for more details. That’s when I first heard about the 220-foot height, the location close to the corner of Nutmeg and 34, and the facility would be drying grain 24-7 during season,” said Leahy.
Phillips, vice president of grain management at Heartland Co-op, attended the board of supervisors April 7 meeting in Jefferson County Courthouse.
“It would have been nice to have started a little earlier in the process, but we are hopeful,” said Leahy. “We want to make it possible for Heartland to be able to relocate this facility. Hopefully, we can accomplish that.”
More communication needed
Leahy said he would like to know more information and see photos of the proposed elevators.
“We still hope that the parties can sit together and explore alternative sites that would meet the needs of all concerned and avoid the need for costly and protracted litigation,” wrote Draznin. “If you have any questions or suggestions, send emails to info@CountyTaxpayers.com.”
Sykes said he has not had a case like this previously. He has worked litigation cases and worked to stop the establishment of factory farms.
“My co-counsel, the Davis Brown team, has several members experienced in many types of litigation,” said Sykes.
Heartland also has retained counsel, Michael Thrall, a litigator at Nyemaster/Goode in Des Moines.
Thrall has acknowledged receipt of the injunctions, said Sykes. The next step will be the court issuing a hearing date.
“Typically, the courtroom is open to the public, but it is up to the judge,” he said.
A local group has formed, Taxpayers for Intelligent Economic Development, and set up a website at countytaxpayers.com with updates and news links about grain bins in other locations around Iowa.
Sunday, a blog entry on the site, authored by Terry Smith and Eva Norlyk Smith of Fairfield, begins:
“As most people know, the board of supervisors decided to go ahead with paving Osage Road and part of Nutmeg Avenue for the Heartland Co-op, as well as giving a small tax abatement, pending review of final funding numbers and bond options. [Approved by vote at supervisors April 21 meeting].
“While this might appear to cement the deal; it is really just the end of Act 1. The board of supervisors is securing the funds, but roadwork will not start until the Heartland Co-op facility is fully developed and in operation. There is still time to pursue other angles to either stop the project or get agreements in place that ensure that its impact on Fairfield and surroundings stays minimal. There are many good reasons for this community to ensure that at least one of those two options gets carried out.”