Victory In Sterling, Nebraska – By CH Hagstrom, Citizens For Responsible Zoning


About 7:55 PM on Monday, April 10, a sort of dull thud  emanated from southeast Nebraska. Not a clap of thunder, so prevalent this time of year, not an aircraft sonic boom. It was actually the door slamming on another failed attempt at a misguided scheme to take over not only a small parcel of land but an entire community … WE WON!

The simple words of a young man coming of age (don’t count all these millennials out!), I withdraw the application for a zoning change,  sent the representatives from the Farm Bureau and the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (AFAN) back to Lincoln scratching their heads.

It all started in mid-February with a zone-change application for a parcel just over half a mile outside Sterling, Nebraska in an attempt to legitimize a poultry CAFO. I am an adjoining property owner and I contacted SRAP for help to stop the project.

During the next few weeks, with guidance from the unusually shy Laura Krebsbach, I compiled mountains of information from many sources including contributors named Dr. John Ikerd,  Dr. John Kilpatrick, and others, village comprehensive plans, and zoning ordinances. I spoke with county commissioners, assessors, zoning administrators, clerks, an organic farm inspector, neighbors. Not even aggressive authoritarian administrators could dissuade the search.

At a well-attended informational forum April 8, Dr. Ikerd delivered a comprehensive, moving, and direct message. He cited numerous scientific studies from his many years’ experience spotlighting the adverse effects of CAFOs. With the input of Randy Ruppert, Nebraska Communities United (NCU), they sparked great attendance at the April 10th zoning hearing.

Battling intense pressure from the community, Allan Parrish, the aforementioned land owner along with his brother, John, halted the momentum, rejecting the CAFO, and, in the words of a supporter, Saved our town. 

SRAP’s and Laura’s prompt response, expert counsel, and motivating influence helped the group stay the course right to the end of the threat. Concerned neighbors, Michelle Boden, Vane Rengsdorf, Dwight Weiss, and Denny Heusman, among others provided immeasurable support, energy, knowledge, and wisdom in the battle.

We are staying alert. We’ve repelled one effort, and we expect more. SRAP and NCU have shown the way, and Citizens For Responsible Zoning are on that path, fighting to maintain the original intent of our predecessors.