Attorneys for Delta County and the operators of a Powell Mesa Hen House say the two-year-long battle over the facility’s fate isn’t over yet. That's despite a ruling that Western Slope Layers would have to cease and desist operations immediately, handed down by Judge J. Steven Patrick last week.
The judge ruled that the county had failed to provide enough evidence to counter claims by residents that the facility was posing serious health risks to nearby people and animals. Delta County Attorney Christine Knight says she was surprised by the ruling.
"I thought that we had made a very good case," Knight says. "In fact, the judge found most of the points in our favor, but just found on a very narrow ruling regarding the health issue of the neighbors."
On most of the charges the judge did indeed side with the county and the Hostetler family, the operators of Western Slope Layers, in particular saying there was enough evidence to show property values had not been impacted by the operation, as claimed by the plaintiffs.
Karen Budd-Falen, attorney for the Hostetlers, says she was also surprised at the ruling. She says the defense was caught off guard when the main issue of health affects on neighbors was unexpectedly brought up at a hearing before county commissioners. She says county commissioners were charged with looking at four specific issues at the hearing, but that the plaintiffs presented additional evidence about health risks posed by the facility.
"There was never any specific opportunity to rebut the evidence," Budd-Falen says.
She says the Hostetlers plan to appeal the decision. In the meantime, the county has ordered Western Slope Layers to cease and desist all egg-laying operations. But Budd-Falen says she’s not sure what exactly that entails.
"We don't know whether that means that we have to take all those chickens and move them somewhere else, or what that means and what the county wants us to do," Budd-Falen says.
A few weeks could pass before the judge rules on the appeal. In the meantime, Budd-Falen says her clients are in it for the long haul.
"This issue is not over and the case is not going away," she says.