Gilbert farmer alleges Chandler park caused rabbits to invade farm - East Valley Tribune: Chandler

Gilbert farmer alleges Chandler park caused rabbits to invade farm

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Posted: Saturday, July 6, 2013 4:58 am | Updated: 8:16 am, Thu Jul 11, 2013.

It isn’t exactly the landmark case of E. Fudd vs. B. Bunny.

But a Gilbert farm owner has gone to court to force the adjacent city of Chandler to keep what he says are its rabbits off his property.

The attorney for Jeff Foshee Farms complains his client never had a problem before with varmints on the 40-acre parcel at Chandler Heights Road and Val Vista Drive where has grown alfalfa and, sometimes, sorghum since 2003.

But Henry Stein said all that changed when Chandler established its Veterans Oasis Park and Environmental Education Center on that city’s southeast edge.

“Following the establishment of the park in 2008, the farm began to notice an increase in the loss rate of the crops,” Stein wrote in his lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court. “The cause of these losses was not initially understood.”

But what eventually became obvious, he said, is that the damage to the crops was more severe on the west side of the farm. That’s the area adjacent to the park. That, in turn, led to farm employees deciding to hang around at night to see exactly what was going on.

“These inspections revealed a large scale nightly migration of rabbits from the park to the farm,” Stein said. “The rabbits eat the crops and the return to the park.”

Stein said the problem is that the park is providing a haven to rabbits, providing them with “refuge, water, and a nearby food source, to wit, the farm.” And rabbits being rabbits, the habitat provided by the park has resulted in, well, lots more rabbits.

The farm’s legal claim is based on the legal concept of nuisance.

Specifically, Stein said the farm was there first. But by creating the park, he said the city has created conditions which have allowed the rabbit population in the area to grow and thrive.

And Stein said the city has, “allowed the rabbit population to leave the park and enter the farm for food.”

Assistant city attorney Eric Anderson questioned the basis for the lawsuit.

“I don’t know that they’re our rabbits,” he said. “They’re Mother Nature’s rabbits.”

Anyway, Anderson said, it’s not like the city created a park for rabbits and then brought them in.

Stein most immediately wants Judge Mark Aceto to order Chandler to install a temporary fence designed to keep the rabbits out. Eventually, the lawyer said his client wants a permanent barrier of some sort that would eliminate or substantially reduce the damage to the crops.

The lawsuit also seeks unspecified compensatory damages.

Chandler has not yet filed a response and no date has been set for a hearing.

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