EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 19, 2013

Haverhill farmer gives up fight for piggery

Dismissal of lawsuit marks end of city's pig farm wars

By Shawn Regan

---- — HAVERHILL — A farmer has given up his legal fight to raise pigs here.

Chris Stasinos has withdrawn his lawsuit aimed at forcing the city’s Board of Health to allow him to raise swine at two locations in the city.

Dismissal of the court case, which closely follows an Appeal Court ruling last month that sided with the city and against Stasinos in a related case, effectively ends what is likely to be remembered for some time as Haverhill’s pig farm wars.

In the fall of 2011, the city’s Board of Health voted to deny Stasinos a license to raise pigs at an existing piggery on Boxford Road and a proposed one at Silsby Farm on Salem Street. A few months after the decision, the city evicted the pigs from the Boxford Road property.

The health board rejected the Stasinos piggeries because they would “create noisome and injurious odors and be injurious to the estates of other property owners and would otherwise constitute a nuisance or threat to public health,” according to the board’s written decision.

In denying the Silsby Farm piggery, where the Stasinos’ said the Boxford Road pigs would be spending the winter, the health board said it would be too close to single-family homes on Valleyview Farm Road and have a “severe adverse impact” on a 27-home development being built nearby called Hale’s Landing.

In addition to the city and its Board of Health, Stasinos’ lawsuit also named Hales Landing LLC as defendants. Until the complaint was dismissed two weeks ago, it was scheduled for a status hearing Feb. 28 and appeared headed for a jury trial. The dismissal notice says each side is to pay its own legal costs and that there are no avenues for appeal.

Francis DiLuna, the Stasinos’ lawyer, said neither he nor his clients would comment.

The controversy began in May 2011, when the Stasinos began raising pigs without a license on nine acres of agricultural land near the Boxford line, sparking complaints from neighbors about odors and concerns from city officials about potential environmental impacts.

On two occasions, city inspectors went to the farm, counting 25 pigs on one visit and 20 on the other. But in his appeal to the courts and later to state regulators, Chris Stasinos said he planned to keep only seven sows and one boar at the two farms at separate times — Boxford Road from April to November and Silsby Farm in the winter.

In its denial decision, the health board said Chris Stasinos and his lawyer DiLuna refused to say how many pigs the farmer intended to raise on the Boxford Road land. The board’s ruling said the land had a capacity of between 104 and 156 animals. At a City Hall hearing early in the dispute — packed with dozens of neighbors opposed to the pig farm and farmers there to support the Stasinos — DiLuna said information about how many pigs his client intended to raise was a proprietary secret.