Farmer's request to halt development is
rejected By John
Agar The Grand Rapids Press
HOLLAND TWP. -- After
losing a court fight Wednesday to halt a major development
near his blueberry fields, Kenneth Smith was uncertain
what the future held -- both legally and agriculturally.
Smith, owner of Wooden
Shoe Blueberry Farm on Beeline Avenue, sought a temporary
restraining order to stop a major commercial development
project that includes a Target store. He said that the
project would drain groundwater from his farm and threaten
But a judge said Smith
failed to show that the project would cause irreparable
harm to his farm and denied the request.
"We're going to re-evaluate,
in terms of what the damages are going to be," said his
attorney, R. John Wilcox.
He could appeal Ottawa
County Circuit Judge Edward Post's ruling, too. But Smith
said he has to grow a lot of blueberries to challenge
developers and retailers with millions on the line.
"I'm sure they can outspend
me 20 to 1," Smith said.
Geenen DeKock Properties
is constructing a 125,000-square-foot project that includes
a Target store and other major retailers on 95 acres along
U.S. 31 north of Riley Street. Smith's farm is northeast
of the development.
The developers have
to drain a shallow water table to move heavy equipment
across wetlands, which Smith says will drain water from
his blueberry fields. Blueberry plants have shallow roots
and thrive in a higher water table.
But attorneys Jon Bylsma
and Nyal Deems, representing Geenen DeKock, said there
is no evidence that temporarily draining water on the
building site would have an adverse impact on Smith's
They noted that the
state Department of Environmental Quality has approved
the project, which includes building new wetlands.
"This is a huge aquifer,"
Deems said. "It's all speculation on how much it will
Bylsma said that damage
is "something nobody wants to occur, and we don't think
it's going to happen. We're not trying to harm his farm."
Witnesses in the hearing
included a hydrologist who said the construction project
could have a lasting impact on the water table on Smith's
farm, and a Michigan State University horticulturist who
specializes in blueberries.
Eric Hanson, the MSU
professor, said blueberries thrive in areas where the
water table is very shallow. The water table on Smith's
property is about a foot below the surface.
He said Smith could
irrigate to make up for water loss, but said that poses
added costs in electricity to run pumps, along with herbicides,
fertilizers and insecticides that could be washed away
He noted that if the
water returns near its current level once construction
is done, the blueberries will have adequate water.
Defense attorneys said
that a slight lowering of the water table would fit an
ideal range for blueberries.
The judge said testimony
showed that the water table should not have a long-term
"I am concerned in this
case about the lack of empirical data," Post said. "The
plaintiff failed to prove the damage was irreparable.
There's no evidence to prove plaintiff's property will
be of less value today by virtue of the de-watering."
He said Smith could
have economic loss if his plants produce fewer blueberries
the first year or so, but that wasn't enough to halt the
This information is posted
for nonprofit educational purposes, in accordance with U.S.
Code Title 17, Chapter 1,Sec. 107 copyright laws.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for
purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use," you
must obtain permission from the copyright owner.