CLUC Gets Answer on Latest Court Filing
Whether you call it the Hotchkiss or North Fork Chicken War or something less dramatic, the battle continued during the month of August and promises to escalate over the next few months. As you may recall, the Chicken War began last summer when Delta County considered two proposed 15,000 bird confinement chicken layer operations, on Powell Mesa and the other on the east Redlands Mesa.
About a year ago, the Board of County Commissioners approved the proposals pending the developers meeting a list of conditions imposed under the County’s Specific Development Regulations with the goal being to mitigate any impacts upon the neighbors. The neighbors in the meantime argued that the proposals were incompatible with the neighborhoods in which they were proposed and also did not fit with the goals of the Delta County Master Plan.
Shortly after the approval, the neighbors banded together and filed a lawsuit against the County claiming that the Commissioners had not followed their own regulations in overruling the Leroux Creek Planning Committee and Delta County Planning Commission, both of which had denied both proposals. Then in the spring of this year Western Slope Layers began construction on the chicken barn bringing howls of protest from the neighbors.
The County investigated and issued a cease and desist letter effective until the developer/owner, Edwin Hostetler of Hotchkiss, met some of the conditions that had been agreed to. Hostetler complied, was okayed again and continued the building. The chicken house was populated with birds in June.
Immediately the complaints flowed in from the neighbors, citing clouds of dust emanating from the structure especially during the dry, hot days of early summer. YouTube videos documenting the dust were regularly posted by neighbor, Dr. Susan Raymond. The County inspected yet again and gave the Hostetler’s 30 days to rectify items in violation under the conditional use agreement; these included failing to install a louvered wall to capture dust.
On August 1 the County inspected again and found the operation now meeting the conditions. That evening another video was filmed and posted showing dust apparently still emanating from the facility. A visit by the Herald at 7:30 p.m. on August 3 resulted in the billows of dust at the building being observed from Powell Mesa Road, highlighted by the lowering sun. Irrigation sprinklers had been installed on the north side of the building in an apparent attempt to knock down some of the dust.
To bring you up to speed in the story, here is an August 11 press release from Travis Jardon of Citizens for Land Use Compatibility (CLUC), the neighbors’ group:
“On August 7, 2012, the Delta County Board of County Commissioners announced that they will be reopening the specific development applications of Western Slope Layers and Rocky Mountain Layers to take additional evidence on the record. The Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the matter on September 4, 2012, at 2:00 p.m. in Room 234 of the Delta County District Courthouse building.
On July 5, 2012, the Delta County District Court judge, J. Steven Patrick issued a ruling finding four specific areas where the Court stated evidence was lacking in the record for the Commissioners’ conditional approval of the two poultry operations. The Court ruling remanded the applications back to the Commissioners to make additional findings on the four specific areas and issue a new decision.
These four areas are: (1) whether the operations were compatible with the neighborhood; (2) whether the operations would have a negative impact on neighboring property values; (3) whether the conditions imposed were sufficient to mitigate environmental concerns; and (4) whether the County staff was able to monitor and enforce the conditions of approval.
The purpose of the public hearing is to take additional evidence to address these concerns. Written comments may be submitted to the Delta County Commissioners at 501 Palmer St., Suite 227, Delta CO 81416 or by email to email@example.com, but should be limited to addressing the four areas of concern in the Court’s ruling. Comments received after the close of the public hearing will not be considered.”
In late July CLUC filed another motion with the Court asking that a cease and desist order be issued applying to the Western Slope Layer operation on Powell Mesa. The judge while declining to issue such an order did rule that under current county regulation the County could not allow the facility to continue operation but that enforcement was under their purview. CLUC then held the County’s feet to the fire in a letter from their attorneys dated August 10.
An excerpt: “The purpose of this letter is to again make demand on the County to issue a cease and desist order to Edwin and Eileen Hostetler for the operation of the chicken farm on their property, which is being operated in violation of Delta County Land Use Regulations. I am in receipt of the press release, which the County sent out yesterday and note with interest the scheduling of new public hearings in this matter to address the issues of the Court’s Order of July 5, 2012. What I have not seen is a cease and desist order to Edwin and Ilene Hostetler which is also required by the Court’s orders. The Cease and Desist Order is required to be issued by the County Special Development Regulations, these include Article 2, Section 1, Article 2, Section 4, Article 5, Section 3 (C) and Article 8, Section 3. Your failure to enforce the Delta County Land Use Regulations is causing immediate and substantial harm to the residents of Powell Mesa. I suggest you read the case of Robinson v. City of Seattle, 830 P2d 318 (Washington 1992) which addresses a situation where a government entity continues to act in violation of a court order. There is potential liability for your conduct. You and the County, as land use administrators, have an obligation to be fair to all parties. Since you recognize that the permits previously issued by the County are invalid, you should also recognize that the illegal operations of Edwin and Ilene Hostetler must stop.”
In the meantime the legal battle has allegedly been joined by the controversial, Wyoming based, private property rights lawyer, Karen Budd-Falen, who is reportedly aiding Western Slope Layers, making it now more than just a battle between the attorneys for CLUC and County attorney Christine Knight. CLUC has an account for donations to cover legal expenses set up at the North Fork Bank Center in Hotchkiss.