Pasco planning commissioners are considering allowing farming on the same vacant property that was the center of a corn maze controversy almost two years ago, despite opposition from neighbors.
Some neighbors asked the commission Thursday to recommend denial of the special permit to allow Phil Schmitt and his family to farm 18 acres on the 2100 block of Road 72.
It's the same property where the Schmitts proposed opening a corn maze in fall 2009 near Faith Assembly Christian Center.
That proposal drew opposition from almost 40 neighbors and the city council ended up denying a special permit.
Schmitt said his family would like to raise produce to sell locally at farmer's markets, farm stands or to stores.
The proposal does not include a corn maze.
Neighbor Jesse Rodgers said he was concerned, based on the previous experience with the corn maze.
After Schmitt didn't receive the permit, Rodgers said corn stalks ended up blowing into neighboring yards.
He also expressed concerns about degrading Wernett Road, which is gravel, with farm equipment turning around on the road.
Schmitt said his family immediately stopped farming on the property when they received notice two years ago from the city that a special permit was needed. They were unaware of a need for a permit to farm, he said.
They invested a lot of money and time in the property, including purchasing water rights, and didn't see any return, he said.
During that time, he said they were harassed with complaints made to the Department of Labor and Industries and Child Protective Services.
Roger Lenk of Pasco argued that the proposal would be detrimental to the neighborhood. He claimed that pesticides and fertilizers would drain onto other properties, and it would become a nuisance to neighbors.
Schmitt said his farms always have followed federal and state regulations, and never have had any complaints, investigations or fines with either regulatory agency.
He encouraged commissioners to check his record.
Chairman Joe Cruz said he believed the commission had the ability to recommend approval of a special permit with certain conditions.
Some of the conditions the commission directed city staff to add to the proposal included allowing the storage of small farm equipment, having equipment turn around on the property and not on the road, fencing for the livestock and limiting cows to one per acre.
The commission also suggested giving the Schmitts a three-year permit with an option to renew for two years.
Cruz said that would give Schmitt time to prove himself to be the good neighbor he pledged to be.
The planning commission will consider the revised proposal March 17.