Buffalo Creek subdivision residents turned out by the dozens on July 13 to oppose construction of a poultry processing plant east of their neighborhood, and they turned two planning commission votes their way.
With five of seven members present, the Wellington (Colorado) Planning Commission voted 3-2 to recommend approval of a conditional use request to allow Northern Colorado Poultry to relocate from Nunn to the northeast corner of Boxelder Business Park.
Yes votes came from chairman Chuck Mayhugh; Larry Noel, who also serves as town mayor; and Wayne Sterler. Commissioners Barry Friedrichs and Travis Vieira, who also serves on the town board, voted no.
The all-volunteer planning commission serves an advisory role to the elected town board, which will hold its hearing on July 28, 7:30 p.m., in the Leeper Center.
Planning commissioners gave their approval with a list of conditions intended to mitigate impacts on the community. Among them are a processing limit of 1,500 birds a day and a restriction against storing birds outside. Waste must be hauled away daily.
The business park is zoned light industrial, but live-animal processing requires a conditional use permit. Northern Colorado Poultry also wants to have a retail outlet to sell beef, lamb and pork provided by another processor in addition to its own products.
About 70 citizens and the planning commissioners spent over an hour debating the merits of having a processing plant in the business park. Mindi Pryce brought in petitions with more than 250 signatures from Buffalo Creek opposing the plant.
“Now we’ll be heading out to other subdivisions,” Pryce said after the vote.
Numerous Buffalo Creek residents said they do not oppose meat processing, but they do not want it that close to their homes and Eyestone Elementary School.
If approved, the new plant would be located about 1,100 feet from the nearest home and 700 feet from the nearest point in Buffalo Creek Park, according to town administrator Larry Lorentzen.
In response to questions about water use, co-owner Bill Beilhartz said processing requires 2.3 gallons of water per bird. Byproducts are packaged and hauled away, he said, so that only rinse water goes into the town’s water treatment system.
Pryce gave commissioners a study that concluded home values could drop by 6.4 percent with a nearby processing plant, but Noel and area resident Lou Kinzli, both real estate agents, disagreed with the study. Kinzli said the economic downturn, lost jobs and foreclosures are already causing home values to drop in Wellington (Colorado).
Resident Virgil Hobbs said he knew he was moving next to a dairy (La Luna on County Road 9) when he came to Wellington (Colorado). “A dairy and a chicken processing plant on either side of my subdivision is just asking too much,” he said.
Area farmer Richard Seaworth said people want Wellington (Colorado)’s rural environment, but agriculture needs markets to survive. “I’d really appreciate a yes vote on this,” Seaworth said.
Some town residents asked why the plant could not locate in rural Larimer County, but others responded that the county commissioners would not approve that degree of development in a rural area.
“This is the best location for our company,” Beilhartz said of the business park.
This is the second time the planning commission has held a hearing for Northern Colorado Poultry. The company had to submit a new application after its first-choice lot was leased to Graycor Blasting Co.
At the first hearing, planning commissioners voted unanimous approval, but there was little opposition at that time. When the Wellington (Colorado) Town Board held its public hearing on May 26, with a roomful of upset residents, it could not vote on the application because the requested lot was no longer available.
After several town residents accused the planning commissioners of having their minds made up before the hearing, commissioner Vieira said he was swayed by public opinion during the May town board hearing that drew a crowd of 60.
“When you folks came to the board, my mind was changed,” he said. “Turning out and being part of meetings and voicing opinions is big, and you all should do it all the time.”
If the town board approves the conditional use on July 28, a new building of 4,200 square feet could be ready in November at the earliest, Derrel Baker of Kustom Structures said after the meeting.