Delta County chicken farms gain approval

Sticking to their original position, Delta County commissioners reaffirmed Monday their approval of two controversial, 15,000-hen, cage-free, egg-laying operations — to the dismay of some county residents who have fought them tooth and nail since the approvals last year.

Commissioners were compelled to reanalyze reams of engineering and scientific data regarding the farms — as well as new evidence submitted during a special public hearing in September — because a District Court judge found “abuse of discretion” in commissioners’ original approvals, and remanded the decision back to them.

Apparently, commissioners were unmoved by a fresh look at the case.

Commissioner Olen Lund said, “We uphold the applications as originally done,” and also specifically addressed the four areas to which the District Court mandated commissioners pay particular attention.

In two of the areas — whether the operations are compatible with the neighborhood, and whether adjoining property values would be adversely affected — commissioners maintained that because there was both supporting and contrary evidence presented to them, no definitive conclusion could be made.

Another District Court mandate said commissioners must consider that the conditions placed on the applicant, Edwin Hostetler, are sufficient, and that Delta County staff is capable of monitoring all them.

The county pointed to nine department inspections, as well as additional independent air quality testing, as proof it had met this burden.

Underpinning the proceedings Monday was the fact that there is no distinction in state statutes that specifically defines industrial or commercial agricultural operations. 

That lack of distinction allowed the county to point to the Delta County Master Plan, which specifically, but broadly, says protection of agriculture is a priority. There are also no air quality standards for agriculture operations in Colorado.

Commissioner Bruce Hovde took issue with opponents’ scientific evidence, saying much was based on larger operations, and health impact evidence was based on people who work directly inside such facilities.

The opponents are mostly neighbors of the current operation on Powell Mesa, and others who live next to a proposed operation on Redlands Mesa.

Travis Jardon will be a neighbor to the facility planned for Redlands Mesa, and is an organizer of the opposition group.

“I think they’ve missed the boat on this, again,” Jardon said Monday. “With 25 or 30 health complaints, and more coming in, we’ve got a huge problem.”

He and others are concerned that the Hostetlers — who operate many farms across multiple states — think the door is wide open to even more expansion beyond the two approved egg-laying facilities.

“There will be more coming,” he said.


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