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Residents file lawsuit against Spring Valley Twp.

A group of Spring Valley Twp. residents have filed a civil lawsuit against Spring Valley Twp. trustees over an alleged illegal compost facility on Richland Road, according to court documents.

The seven residents who filed the lawsuit in Greene County Common Pleas Court have asked the court to order the township trustees to enforce local zoning laws and ban the facility’s owners, Jeff and Mary Horning, from continuing operations. The plaintiffs have also asked the court to remove the building, located on a 5-acre parcel of land, from the property.

The Hornings did not return a phone call from this newspaper seeking comment.

A hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 4.

“We’ve been trying to get the township to step up and do their job,” said Fred Zehring, a plaintiff and township resident. “They just don’t want to do that.”

According to court records, the plaintiffs allege the land is zoned for general agricultural, which does not allow agribusiness operations, so the operation of the compost facility is prohibited.

“There are issues in this case that the 2nd District Court of Appeals hasn’t resolved,” said Elizabeth Ellis, head of the Greene County Prosecutors Office Civil Division who is representing the township. “It should be interesting to see what the court holds.”

The plaintiffs also allege operation of the facility has had adverse safety and health effects on the local residents.

“As part of the composting facilities operation, manure is constantly being trucked onto site where it is mixed with various bulking agents and additives such as sawdust to facilitate the composting process,” wrote L. Michael Bly,the attorney for the plaintiffs, in the complaint filed on July 14. “The day-to-day operations result in sawdust flowing on to adjoining properties and roadways as well as the constant beeping from the front-end loaders used to scoop the manure as it is delivered and maintain the compost and turn it on a daily basis as the composting process is underway.”

Zehring said the smell from the facility can be quite strong and some residents have complained about the odor burning their nose and eyes.

“As a group, we would like for people to understand the government needs to do their job,” he said. “What we have done to date is what the township should have done from the beginning.”

Zehring said the township has made assumptions, about how the property was zoned, from the beginning and their assumptions were wrong.

“We did not want to go to court,” he said. “We live in the township.”

Zehring said he didn’t want to the township to have to use their funds to fight a lawsuit, but plaintiffs felt like they had no other options after trying to work things out with the trustees.

“We just can’t get their attention, so that’s why we ended up in court,” he said.

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