Kaufman: Facility may be forced to close or meet water, air
Neighbors and some city
officials have said it for years, and now it's official: The Dallas Crown horse
meat-processing plant in Kaufman is a nuisance.
The Kaufman Board of
Adjustment made that declaration on a 4-0 vote Tuesday night, stripping the
plant of its status as a legal nonconforming use – a business that can continue
to exist because it predates zoning ordinances that would otherwise outlaw it.
But what will happen to the
plant remains to be seen. The board could force it to close, or it could order
the company to fix what the city says is creating the nuisance – smell and
discharge into the city's sewer system.
Either way, a company
representative said, an appeal to a state district court is possible.
"We had thought the
hearing would go against us all along," said Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman and
lobbyist for Dallas Crown and for Beltex Corp., a separate company that has a
horse meat plant in Fort Worth. "It's just another problem. Any business
faces its problems, and we've certainly had our share of them."
Terry Capehart, Kaufman's
director of development services, said the city was thorough in documenting
problems with the plant.
"It's the impact they're
having on the immediate area," he said. "The neighbors who live
around there have a problem with flies and other vermin and the smell."
But before the city can close
the plant, the board must determine whether Dallas Crown has recouped its
financial investment. The plant would be allowed to operate until that
investment is made back, said David Dodd, an attorney for the city. He said
attorneys and accountants for Kaufman would meet to review Dallas Crown
financial information soon to prepare for another public hearing before the
Board of Adjustment, probably on Jan. 24.
Robert Eldridge, a neighbor of
the Kaufman plant, said he was pleased with the board's decision. He said he
was tired of the smell wafting into his neighborhood.
"We've waited for years
for this," he said. "We'll wait some more. We just want to live like
normal people. They did the right thing."
Dallas Crown attorney Mark
Calabria said Tuesday's vote was less significant than the one expected in
"The bigger issue is what
abatement or corrective action they want them [the company] to take," he
The hearing wasn't the first
time the city has tried to close the plant. Last year, it shut off sewer
service, saying the company was violating the terms of its permit. But a state
district judge allowed the plant to continue operating and ordered the two
sides to mediate.
Mr. Bradshaw denied the claims
of violations of air and water regulations.
"They've reported us for
violations of clean air and water regulations, and every time we have things
tested and we're in compliance," he said. "We're totally in
compliance with the law."
Horse meat from the three U.S.
plants – the two in North Texas and one in Illinois – is sold mainly for use in
Europe, Asia and zoos.
Congress has tried to ban
horse slaughter in the U.S., and in November an amendment to the agriculture
spending bill cut off funding for federal inspectors, effective in March. The
U.S. plants would not be able to operate without an inspector.
Mr. Bradshaw said the
companies were awaiting word from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on whether
they could pay for inspectors, which would allow the plants to continue operating.
Mr. Calabria said he and his
clients know the plant won't be around forever.
"The plant recognizes
that neighborhoods change and conditions change, but we're not an impairment to
the community at the moment," he said. "I don't see people avoiding
Kaufman because of us."