Commissioners grant conditional approval to slaughterhouse
The long-anticipated USDA certified slaughterhouse and meat processing facility at Eagle Springs Organic, located south of Silt, moved a significant step toward reality Monday when Garfield County commissioners approved a land use application on the condition the applicant complies with a number of requirements.
The decision came as a relief to owner Ken Sack, who said on Tuesday that he is confident his team can meet the required conditions relatively quickly. If so, the Eagle Springs Organic facility would become the only USDA certified slaughterhouse and processing facility in Garfield County, which commissioners agreed would be a positive for the county.
Currently, local ranchers who want to slaughter their cattle, sheep or other animals in order to sell the meat to local restaurants or markets have to travel some distance to do so. USDA certified facilities serving as a slaughterhouse and processing facility currently operate in Craig, Fruita and Delta, according to a USDA database.
“It’s going to be great for not only us but the local ranchers,” Sack said.
While he is confident the conditions will be met and the facility will be fully operational in the near future, Sack does have reason to be cautious in his predictions.
News of the facility’s pending opening was first reported in August 2013. At the time, Eagle Springs Organic was awaiting USDA approval and it was believed the facility would be open in a matter of weeks. However, the county then informed Eagle Springs it needed a land use application, which halted the USDA certification process, Sack said. Since then he has had to work through the process of complying with the county’s land use code and other requirements. Both county staff and the planning commission expressed hesitation concerning the proposal, citing insufficient information regarding certain aspects of the plan. In July, the planning commission voted 3-1 to recommend denial of the application.
Monday, the board of commissioners, county staff and Eagle Springs representatives with through each of the 29 conditions of approval originally presented to the board — ultimately refining the list to 22 conditions for approval.
Included in those are improvements to the access road, water, wastewater and fire protection measures, are all required. An unexpected concern came from Brian Condie, airport director, during Monday’s public hearing.
Condie, who apologized for having just learned about the proposal despite the fact that notification was sent to the airport, told commissioners that the county purchased avigation and hazard easements over the property sometime ago at a significant expense to the county. The easements state that the property should not endanger landings at the airport, according to Condie.
Specifically, Condie said he was concerned that a proposed pond — which the developer suggested as a means to comply with fire protection measures — could attract birds, which could be dangerous in the airspace right outside the airport.
Failure to keep the airspace safe could jeopardize funding from the Federal Aviation Administration. Condie said that he would gladly work with Sack and the FAA but that his primary obligation is the welfare of the airport.
Karl Hanlon, Sack’s attorney, suggested that the county include compliance with the easements as part of the conditions for approval. Hanlon also noted that Sack was waiting to move forward on some of the other conditions until the commissioners decided whether or not hauling water would be acceptable. Since the facility does not have a direct line to municipal water, the application proposes hauling water by truck to be used for the slaughterhouse.
In the past, the board has allowed hauling for short-term uses, and it has also denied hauling water for larger more long term projects, Hanlon said.
Ultimately, the commissioners agreed to allow water hauling, but included a condition requiring Sack to return in two years and update the commissioners on any efforts to secure a water supply.
The only comment from a member of the audience came from Glenn Ault, who identified as a neighbor and spoke in favor of the project due to the need for more jobs in the area.
Initially, the slaughterhouse will employ six full-time workers, according to Sack. However, having the facility in Garfield County could benefit local ranchers, and Sack said he will likely expand his own cattle operations if the slaughterhouse becomes a reality.
Having such a facility here in Garfield County certainly would be a convenience, said Frank Daley, a longtime local rancher in New Castle.
“It definitely would be an asset,” he said.
Sack said he has already been in contact with the USDA and expects to be certified by the federal agency within a month.
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