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Commissioners Uphold Hen House Decision


Yesterday, the Delta County Commissioners upheld their earlier decision approving specific development applications for two laying hen operations. The decision review was required by a district court ruling in July. KVNF’s Ariana Brocious reports that while the commissioners have now complied with the court ruling, the story isn’t over yet.

Ag is STILL ag, according to Commissioner Doug Atchley, who stood by his comments from more than a year ago when the commissioners originally approved chicken houses on Powell and Redlands Mesas. In Monday’s brief meeting, Commissioner Olen Lund addressed the four points the judge had determined were lacking in evidence from their decision last year. Lund says the commissioners took all the new evidence from September’s hearing into consideration in making their new decision.

We’ve asked numerous questions of staff, commissioned further studies to be done, and in general done extensive due diligence with all of the submitted evidence.

Lund says that there was conflicting evidence on both compatibility with the neighborhood, and the potential affect to property values. He says the nine inspections county staff conducted at Western Slope Layers between April and August, the already operational hen house on Powell Mesa, demonstrate both that the hen house is in compliance with the county’s conditions and that county staff is capable of enforcing those conditions. As to the air study the county commissioned, Lund says it didn’t show anything particularly egregious.

Basically they assured us there’s nothing there that wouldn’t be there form a typical operation. It’s basically living in the rural lifestyle. That’s what’s in the air.

Size came into the equation, too. The commissioners refuted evidence from plaintiffs on the impacts from concentrated animal feeding operations, and arguments that these hen houses are too big for the area. Lund pointed out that the state doesn’t distinguish between agriculture and industrial agriculture. Atchley reminded the room that Delta County prioritizes agriculture over residences in its master plan. Ultimately, Lund says there was a lot of new evidence on both sides, but it didn’t change their decision.

We went through all of that and came down to same place we were before. Or similar. What we’ve done, the conditions we’ve put in place and monitoring those, is working.

After the decision, hen house opponents, like plaintiff Susan Raymond, and proponents, like Barbara Hewlett, gathered in the hallway to discuss their views, but with less rancor and heat than previous exchanges at public hearings.

I cannot believe that when I live across the street from foster farms….baloney….I invite you to come up and watch.

Hewlett supports the commissioner’s decision, and says they followed state law.

People have the right to farm in this state. It’s an agriculture state. It’s an agriculture county.

Raymond says that she and the other plaintiffs have no choice but to go back to the judge.

We’re not going to stop, I can’t. This is my livelihood, this is my life. They’re taking away everything I’ve worked for.

Commissioner Lund says they also don’t expect things to end here.

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