Seventh-generation farming family fears for its future

After a ten-year legal dispute, which even went as far as the Swiss Federal Court in Lausanne, a local farming family is having to face up to the fact that permission has been granted for a major residential development to be built on adjacent land, which could mean the end of the business.

The development in question, named Grossmatt, is to be built above the St Antonius chapel on a site adjacent to Josef Hürlimann’s land and will consist of five different buildings, one of which will be very close to a cow shed, chicken coop and dung heap.

In his attempt to have the development blocked, Hürlimann, now 56, asked who, in their right mind, would want to live in an apartment and be subject to all the smells, noise and flies from a working farm, even if it did enjoy uninterrupted views of Lake Zug.

It seems mistakes were made early on in the planning of this development to be built by the Aula AG company of Cham, not least when the municipal authorities failed to mention the potential problem of noise emanating from the farm. Permission to proceed was initially declined but the case ended up with the Swiss Federal Court in Lausanne, who ruled only recently in favour of the developers, with managing director Nick Staub declining to comment, other than to say that they will be looking at the project again, which could take some time.

The Hürlimann family have run their farm in this location for seven generations, with the farmer’s wife, Martha, now fearing that their 28-year-old son, André, will not be able to take it over as planned. What is more, they have spent some CHF 50,000 on lawyers already, but represented themselves in the last instance. They fear the developers will take legal action about the smell, noise and flies. “They can afford top lawyers,” said Mrs Hürlimann. “What can we do against that?” she asked in despair.

Following the situation closely has been Clemens Meier, an expert and advisor in such matters in a service provided by the Swiss Farmers’ Association. Experience has taught him that, in such situations, sooner or later, legal action will be taken about the future residents’ problems, with the farmers having to do something about them, meaning the number of animals the farmer keeps might have to be reduced.

It seems this whole problem could have been avoided if the Hürlimanns had raised objections about the precise siting at the outset, i.e. over ten years ago. Why did they not? “I thought the whole problem could have been solved through talking. My problem was that I have been too nice about it all,” said the farmer with resignation.  

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