The Board of County Commissioners has added a new condition to its Specific Development approval for Rocky Mountain Layers on Powell Mesa above Hotchkiss.
Rocky Mountain Layers is to obtain the services of a qualified air quality or air pollution engineer and submit an operations plan for ensuring the quality of air emissions from the 15,000-hen egg laying facility.
The commissioners' move came as the BoCC reaffirmed its original, 2011 decision to conditionally approve Rocky Mountain Layers Specific Development application.
The commissioners' decision follows a second round of additional testimony on May 1 from plaintiffs in a court case that seeks to overturn the commissioners' approval for the hen house. At that May hearing, plaintiffs in the suit disputed evidence about air quality and emissions from the hen house. The commissioners first approved the Rocky Mountain Layers facility on Aug. 29, 2011, following months of contentious hearings at area planning committee, county planning commission, and BoCC meetings.
At the May 28 session, Commissioner Bruce Hovde explained that he had reviewed all the evidence from two years of hearings. He faulted plaintiffs' evidence against Rocky Mountain Layers on several points:
• It applies to livestock or swine feeding operations, not to poultry;
• It applies to poultry operations that are far larger than Rocky Mountain Layers;
• Rocky Mountain Layers is categorized as a "concentrated" animal feeding operation, not a "confined" animal feeding operation as plaintiffs assert.
"I have driven by Rocky Mountain Layers dozens of times and I have yet to notice an odor problem," Hovde said.
Hovde also responded to a plaintiff's charge that county staff advance notified hen house management of a scheduled air quality test. He said that 24 hours advance notice of inspections is normal state health department practice.
Commissioner Mark Roeber noted that he, too, had reviewed all the evidence documents. "Many of them I find contradict with one another," he said.
Roeber said that plaintiffs' reference to much larger "confined feeding operations" does not apply to Rocky Mountain Layers.
The state's right-to-farm policy requires negligent operation for an ag facility to be deemed a nuisance, he said. "That is the number one thing to look at ... mitigation (at Rocky Mountain Layers) continues to get better."
One other issue — determining whether Powell Mesa is a residential or an agricultural neighborhood — presents "a contradiction," Roeber said. "There's no solution to that."
County commission chairman Doug Atchley noted there is no state standard for air quality at animal feeding operations. Also, there is not an established standard for odor emissions from poultry feeding operations. "This (Delta County) is an agricultural area," Atchley said.
He concurred with points made by the other commissioners, and he noted that were it not for the county's Specific Development regulations, the Rocky Mountain Layers hen house could have been located much closer to the nearest neighbor than the current 900-foot distance.
Atchley also recounted the sequence of events, including district court hearings, court decisions, evidence hearings, court remands, and the BoCC approval and reaffirmations stretching back from Monday's session to the Aug. 29, 2011, original approval.blog comments powered by Disqus