BEAR GAP - Joel and Sarah Knoebel want the 57 residents who have appealed their plan to build two large chicken barns in Cleveland Township to post a $151,100 bond, money they'd receive if Columbia County Court finds the appeal frivolous.

They have delayed the zoning process, and that has cost the Knoebels income and the ability to expand their agricultural business, the couple argues in court documents.

A hearing to determine whether the bond will be included in a zoning appeal hearing will be held at 2:30 p.m. Monday in courtroom 2 of the county courthouse.

The Knoebels, of 110 Center School Road, are the owners of Cleveland Pork, a five-year-old pork producing operation contracted with Country View Family

Farms, Middletown.

They said in a court filing that residents are thwarting their legitimate and lawful agricultural business use of the property, which is in a R2 Residential Medium Density District zone, and ultimately hindering the process of building the chicken houses. The land in question is northeast of Bear Gap, a few miles from Route 54.

The neighbors' appeal is frivolous, because agriculture and horticulture are permitted uses within the R2 district, the Knoebels' court filing says.

They come to the six-figure total by citing that poultry barns of similar size and types earn approximately $2,600 a week, meaning the Knoebels could potentially lose $67,600 over a 26-week appeal period. They will also lose $15,000 they could earn from selling chicken manure as fertilizer, and estimate they'll pay $32,000 in attorney fees and lose $5,000 through miscellaneous and incidental costs, including lost interest.

It is also reasonable to believe that building costs will increase 7 percent since the barns were not constructed in spring, adding $31,500, they've told the court.

The Knoebels wants the bond as a pre-condition to continuing the zoning appeal. If the zoning appeal is denied by the courts, it would become immediately payable to them.

Joel Knoebel did not return a request for additional comment Friday.

'We're stuck'

Residents have been pushing for the Cleveland Township supervisors to pass an amendment to the zoning ordinance that would limit large-scale animal farms in a residential district. It would ban against a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) from exceeding 100 livestock animals within 500 yards of a residential dwelling in the R2 district.

Johanna Lucid, of 24 Wynn School Road, who has been leading the charge with her husband, Tom, to prevent any CAFOs in the district, said they would be in a bind if the Knoebels win and a large-scale animal facility is built near their house. They'd want to sell the home, but would that work, she asks.

"We won't be able to sell it; the value of our home will go down," she said Friday. "We're retired. We don't have the benefit of being able to recoup our losses. We're stuck."

The battle began in April 2012 when the Knoebels spread manure on farmland surrounding Wynn School, Middle and Polk roads. Residents complained about the "overwhelming" stench and expressed concerns about their health.

In July, Knoebel applied for permits to construct two 43-by-500-foot poultry barns along Wynn School Road on part of a 76-acre tract of land, and it was appealed by the Lucids. In October, Knoebel was denied permits by the Cleveland Township Zoning Hearing Board for the barns because the proposed operation violated an existing township ordinance that states buildings housing livestock, including dog kennels, poultry or mushroom culture, shall be no closer than 100 feet to any public right of way or 300 feet from a residential district or existing residential property owned by others than the applicant.

Once Knoebel amended his plans, the permits were issued in February, but the 57 residents appealed in March.

They said building such a large-scale farming operation near residential areas would be detrimental to their health, quality of life and property values.

Thirty-nine individuals live around the property where Knoebel has proposed creating the CAFO, while an additional 54 residents live within a half-mile of the property. Nineteen other residents live within a mile of the property.

The Lucids, who are members of Concerned Residents Against Factor Farms (CRAFF), said there are no CAFOs in the state located in what is zoned a residential area.

The Knoebels already operate two CAFOs on their 600 acres of property in the region: a 4,500-pig farm located on their home property, approximately three miles east of the R2 District, which is operated under Cleveland Pork; and a 2,200-pig farm located in Irish Valley, operated under the name RK Farms Inc.

Joseph C. Michetti, Trevorton, is representing the residents while Lloyd Hampton, Ashland, is representing the Knoebels.

In addition to the Lucids, other defendants are William and Barbara Freeman, of 74 Wynn School Road; John and Barbara Colella, of 82 Wynn School Road; John and Colleen Brent, of 34 Wynn School Road; Adam and Michelle McBride, of 38 Wynn School Road; Mike and Patricia Bressi, of 70 Wynn School Road; John and Mary Ann Lynn, of 155 Wynn School Road; Kimber Weise, of 150 Wynn School Road; Nancy Weise, of 150 Wynn School Road; Tony and Kathryn Matulewicz, of 176 Monroe Drive; Daniel and Linda Anderson, of 124 Wynn School Road; Steve and Alice Matukaitis, of 54 Wynn School Road; Brian and Amanda Evans, of 980a Middle Road; Jim and Linda Edwards, of 91 Jackson Road; Sue Parks, of 541 Jackson Road; John and Michelle Schwartz, of 147 Wynn School Road; Virginia Dall, of 78 Ridge Acres Road; David and Christine Yordy, of 121 Ridge Acres Road; Francis and Gloria Gerrity, of 113 Ridge Acres Road; Bill and Jodi Henry, of 105 Ridge Acres Road; Rhoda Saldukas, of 105 Ridge Acres Road; Joseph and Ann Marie Leavens, of 55 Ridge Acres Road; Dennis Sosh, of 95 Ridge Acres Road; Robert Smith, of 95 Ridge Acres Road; Victoria Homicz, of 95 Ridge Acres Road; Scott Weaver, of 112 Monroe Drive; Sherry Stankiewicz, of 63 Manor Drive; Mark and Marianne Zenyuch, of 89 Monroe Drive; John and Sherry Karpinski, of 81 Monroe Drive; Christine Smink, of 44 Polk Lane; Doreen Miller, of 44 Polk Lane; James and Jacquelyn Ervin, of 52 Polk Lane; Leroy and Grace Gish, of 35 Polk Lane; Betty Minnick, of 35 Polk Lane; and David and Melanie Karpinski, of 81 Monroe Drive.