In a recent DCI front page story our county commissioners justified continued involvement in the Hostetler egg farm appeal lawsuit and the hiring of a large and expensive Denver law firm to represent them as "a necessary move to protect all of county agriculture." This lawsuit has nothing to do with "protecting all of county agriculture."
The court ruling being appealed includes nothing that would threaten "county agriculture." There is no anti-ag boogie man hidden between the lines. The ruling does not even prohibit a person from constructing a new egg production facility in the county. It just says that they can't do it where it is incompatible with the existing neighborhood.
The Hostetler appeal is very limited in scope and won't affect "county agriculture" now or in the future. The facts and related law are simple: In order to make a major change of use of their existing hay/cow farm the Hostetlers needed to be able to show that the proposed egg production facility would not negatively impact existing neighbors. The Hostetlers were given the opportunity to present evidence showing a lack of negative impact.
The Leroux Creek Planning Board, the Delta County Planning Board and the Delta County Planning Commission all ruled against the Hostetlers, citing potential health hazards to the neighbors. Despite those rulings our commissioners approved the Hostetlers' request.
The neighbors brought legal action and District Court Judge J. Stephen Patrick ruled against the Hostetlers and the decision of the commissioners. Citing numerous health and environmental problems experienced by the neighbors, the court found that there actually was a negative impact.
That is the single issue on appeal — whether the chicken production facility has a negative effect on the neighbors. There is no larger conspiracy against "county agriculture." There is nothing for those of us who have farms, ranches and orchards to fear from the ruling being appealed.
The Hostetlers have hired a very competent law firm and filed an appeal. The "negative impact on the neighbors" issue will eventually be ruled upon by the Court of Appeals. The result will be what it is. There is no need for the commissioners to send in $10,000 of our tax revenues as a retainer to pay a Denver law firm to also appeal the judge's decision. The retainer is only the beginning. At $485 an hour the fees will escalate rapidly. I have seen appellate fees hit the $100,000 mark by the time the ruling came down.
Let the Hostetlers appeal their own case. "County agriculture" and taxpayer dollars have no dog in this fight.
Michael J. McCarthy