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Supreme Court rules on two Cedar Co. cases

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HARTINGTON — The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday that a Randolph area farmer had no right to put fencing in the road right-of-way. 

The ruling ends a seven-year battle between John Thelen and the County Board of Commissioners. 

Numerous verbal warnings and legal notices advising Thelen to remove the fence from the county ditch right-of-way were issued between 2013 and 2017.

The fence was pulled out of the ditch by county officials several times only to later find it had been placed back in the ditch right-of-way.  

Complaints, orders, motions for continuance, affidavits, a temporary restraining order, along with numerous other legal papers have been filed in County, District Courts over the years, with the case eventually making it all the way to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

In 2015, a complaint was filed against Thelen in County Court for obstructing the roadway. During the court proceedings, Judge Douglas Luebe issued a fine of $25 plus court costs and ordered Thelen to keep the fence out of the right-of-way  after hearing the case.

Friday’s Supreme Court ruling affirms the county was within its legal rights to have the fence removed.

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday that the Cedar County Board of Adjustments acted correctly when it approved a building permit for Mark and Carla Goeden to construct a home on farm ground they own southwest of Hartington.

The Supreme Court received the case after the District Court also ruled in favor of the Cedar County Board.

The case was filed on behalf of Frank Hochstein and his Bow Creek Valley LLC company, which operates a 4,500-head cattle feedlot. 

According to court filings, Hochstein believed issuing the building permit went against current Cedar County Zoning regulations designed for intensive agricultural areas. 

Zoning requirements have different setbacks for non-farm residences and for on-farm residences. 

Hochstein argued that the Goeden residence should be considered a non-farm residence, contending the Goedens rent out the farmland surrounding the proposed residence, and don’t actually farm it themselves.

The Board considered it an on-farm residence when it issued the permit.

Both the District and Supreme Court agreed with that assessment because, according to the zoning regulations, “farm buildings and structures, including the residence of the owners,” are permitted in the A-1 intensly agricultural zoning districts.