1, 2, 3 Chicken Farms in a Row on Fruitland Mesa

JoAnn Kalenak, Senior Blogger, DCCR — Last evening’s Planning Commission hearing was a tangled mess of missing and conflicting information, but one thing was clear: Many in Delta County still have big problems with how the county approves Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).

In what was probably the worst-run meeting I’ve witnessed in years, planning staff, led by Interim Director, Robbie LeValley, laid out a clearly incomplete application to put yet another chicken egg laying operation on Fruitland Mesa.

Under the guise of “conditional use” — that means permission under specified conditions — LeValley told PC members issues like water would be “worked out” (the applicant had applied for a residential well but needed a commercial one).

An inadequate traffic study accompanied the application leaving PC members to trip over themselves asking repetitive questions about commercial access and road impacts. Again, without adequate studies or reference material, members later stumbled over the math calculating how much water 25,000 chickens need and only briefly touched on the fact that the applicant could increase that number by 25% without going back to planning with a revised permit application. (In fact, the county hasn’t taken the expansion clause into consideration with any development it has approved.)

Constitutes who spoke at the meeting brought with them the most interesting information. It was revealed that two adjacent properties with existing chicken operations are tied to one company, and that same company may have connections to the application being reviewed. This connection was difficult to confirm since ownership of the property and the applicant’s relationship to it is unclear.

Severe loss of water on the mesa was also demonstrated by one neighbor who’d tracked water levels since the CAFOs started popping in the area. Others pointed out that the lack of county follow up is the biggest problem with “conditional use” development. Once applicants get approval from the county, there is little follow up to make sure conditions have been met.

Crawford resident Vendla Stockdale summed up the sentiment in the room, “The county is intent on making Fruitland Mesa the chicken ghetto of Delta County.”

The application was approved unanimously by the Planning Commission and now moves on to the Delta County Board of County Commissioners.