On Sept. 5, Delta District Court issued a ruling that overturns the county commissioners' Specific Development approvals for Western Slope Layers' and Rocky Mountain Layers' egg-laying operations.
The court directed the county to issue a cease and desist order against the operations.
That directive was carried out Friday, Sept. 6, by the county attorney's office. The county's order to "cease all egg laying operations immediately" impacts mainly the Western Slope Layers operation on Powell Mesa. Rocky Mountain Layers, a similar hen/egg business envisaged for eventual operations on Redlands Mesa, has not begun operations.
In reversing and vacating the county's Specific Development approvals, the court found that adverse health issues encountered by neighbors of the Western Slope Layers facility on Powell Mesa were a deciding factor.
The court found in the record of the county's hearing proceedings and previous court sessions "substantial medical evidence as to numerous health concerns in the (neighborhood) developing only after the Powell Mesa hen/egg operation commenced." The court noted that the county had presented no evidence contradicting the testimony on the medical issues.
"The court concludes that the (commissioners') resolution approving these two 15,000 hen/egg operations must be reversed and vacated based on the evidence of adverse health impacts in the surrounding area such that the proposed development is incompatible with the neighborhood," states the ruling.
"The (county's) approval must be found to be devoid of record support as to compatibility with public health in the vicinity such that the approval ... is arbitrary and capricious," the court said.
The court reaffirmed its previous finding that in land use issues the county Master Plan is a regulatory document, not an advisory one. The county's Specific Development regulations incorporate the Master Plan by reference. Quoting twice from the Master Plan, the court ruling states:
• "The right to develop and improve private property does not constitute the right to physically damage or adversely impact the property or property value of neighboring landowners;"
• And, "In cases where there is incompatibility between an existing and a proposed land use, the property right of the existing use should be given priority."
On the issue of the plaintiffs' claim that the hen/egg operations would lower property values in the neighborhood, the court said, "There is record to support that property values have not been impacted."
The court made note of other issues raised during the commissioners' long public process on the hen/egg operations, including the following ones:
• Plaintiffs did not establish their claims against the county of bias;
• The county health department responded to health complaints of neighbors by contacting the owners of the hen/egg operation, not the people who complained.
• The commissioners conducted a lengthy process of public hearings on the hen/egg operation approvals;
• In pursuit of its professional public responsibilities, county staff has consulted with experts, conducted numerous inspections, and issued notices of non-compliance and its own cease and desist order under the Specific Development approval;
• The statutory right to farm does not apply directly in this issue before the court.
The commissioners' first Specific Development approval for the two hen/egg operations occurred just over two years ago.blog comments powered by Disqus