The Sept. 5 district court ruling that reversed county approvals for Western Slope Layers and Rocky Mountain layers is a threat to local agriculture industries and to the county's ag-based economy, the BoCC was told on Monday.
Two weeks ago, Judge J. Steven Patrick delivered the ruling and ordered the county to issue cease and desist orders against the West Slope Layers operation on Powell Mesa.
Rocky Mountain Layers is not yet in operation at its proposed Redlands Mesa location, though the order applies to it also. The county responded by issuing cease and desist orders on Sept. 6
On Monday, five county residents with deep roots in the local agriculture industry encouraged the commissioners to oppose Judge Patrick's ruling.
Steve Schrock of Delta said that the judge's ruling creates "a de-facto land-use planning czar for Delta County. You should vigorously appeal the ruling." He advised the county, "Hire expert land-use legal counsel if necessary."
Tom Kay, owner of North Fork Organics at Hotchkiss, said the commissioners should rescind the cease and desist order it issued on Sept. 6 "even if the action puts the county into contempt of court. Defy the cease and desist order until all the legal issues are resolved by the court system."
Kay noted that the judge's ruling would be appealed by West Slope Layers. A call to the company by DCI to confirm this was not immediately returned.
"Appeals will go along through the process and the commissioners should allow Western Slope Layers to operate until the issue is resolved," Kay said.
Schrock called the court's decision, "an example of judicial overreach in its worst form. The severity and broadness of the ruling contains many negative impacts for the county's ag industry," he said.
"This decision affects not just Western Slope Layers, but it also affects land-use planning for the entire poultry industry, which is big in Delta County," Schrock said. "I am very concerned about the court's decision. It has huge implications for county agriculture."
Kay, whose 250-acre farm operation produces certified organic corn for the Powell Mesa hen-egg operation, shared some of those implications with the commissioners.
"In a nutshell," Kay said, he would be forced to "terminate all contract employees." Also, the decision may make him cease all farming operations, and the decision could result in bankrupting his farm.
He will suffer "a $10 to $15 difference (decrease) in the per-bushel price I can get for certified corn if I have to sell it now as conventional corn," he said.
Kay said his operation would take a $100,000 hit to its bottom line. "It is a matter of survival for my farm," he told the commissioners.
Schrock pointed to a land-use problem he sees with the court's ruling. The judge based his decision in part on its "compatibility with the existing neighborhood." But, "The two facilities (Western Slope Layers and Rocky Mountain Layers) are located five miles apart. The decision did not distinguish what a neighborhood is. The implications are far-reaching," he said.
"These legal attacks (against Western Slope layers) will apply to other industries," and specifically to other poultry operators, he said. That aspect of the ruling could also apply to oil and gas operators, it was noted.
Kay said, "The county has been outwitted and outmaneuvered. The commissioners have been rendered an irrelevant elected body by the order. Ag-based business in the county is in jeopardy of being terminated by a few people."
Also addressing the commissioners were Delta County natives Olen Lund, Steve Shea, and Hugh Sanburg.
Olen Lund is former, two-term county commissioner who was the BoCC chairman when the commissioners first approved the Specific Development application for the two hen/egg operations in 2011. He addressed the BoCC Monday as board president of Delta County Farm Bureau.
"I am concerned about the precedent the ruling sets for Delta County," he said. "I have gotten a lot of calls from our members, and from non-members," who are concerned also.
Sanburg, a farmer and rancher, is a member of the Colorado State Farm Bureau board.
"I am very concerned about the recent ruling and the precedent it sets for the expansion of existing ag operations. I also urge the commissioners to appeal this decision."
Steve Shea is owner of a county feed lot operation and a member of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association and the Colorado Livestock Association.
"I urge the commissioners to take up the fight" against the court's ruling, he said. "This sets a dangerous precedent for Colorado."blog comments powered by Disqus