Judge rejects appeal by Butchertown neighbors over Swift pork plant expansion
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A judge has upheld the Metro Board of Zoning Adjustment's decision allowing pork processor JBS/Swift to expand its Story Avenue complex, adding an enclosed hog chute and a larger stunning and bleeding building.
The Butchertown Neighborhood Association, which has fought those and other changes to the plant, appealed the board's March 2014 order in Jefferson Circuit Court, arguing that BOZA failed to follow state law and local development rules.
In particular, the zoning adjustment board didn't determine whether Swift's expansion plan would rein in any negative effects on public health and safety, the neighborhood group alleged in complaint filed last April. The association noted that city regulators had slapped the plant with odor violations at the time of the board's decision.
But in an opinion issued last Friday, Circuit Judge Ann Bailey Smith concluded that BOZA properly granted the permit sought by JBS/Swift.
Smith also noted that the Butchertown association didn't cite any evidence that the improvements would harm conditions at the plant or in the neighborhood.
“Rather, the Association has made what amounts to hyper technical objections to the Board's approval process that can only lead the Court to conclude that the Association's problem is not with the physical modifications themselves, but with JBS' very presence in Butchertown,” she wrote.
The neighborhood association could ask for a review of Smith's order by the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
“My clients are disappointed by Judge Smith's ruling, which appears to have been based on errors of both law and fact,” Jon Salomon, a neighborhood association attorney, said in an e-mailed statement. “They are certainly considering their right to appeal, but have not yet made a decision.”
Glenn Price, an attorney for JBS/Swift, said in a prepared statement that his clients were pleased with the ruling.
"Our goal remains the same, to continuously improve the performance of our operation and our standing with our partners in the community," he said.
Plant manager John Cliff said all of the improvements have been completed.
The hog-processing plant has been at the center of disputes with neighbors over odors, noise and traffic during the decades-long gentrification of Butchertown and surrounding areas.
The Swift plant improvements include a 4,008-square-foot enclosed hog unloading chute, which would allow the animals to move from trucks to slaughter with “less shock to their systems, thereby reducing injuries to both the hogs and JBS employees” and limiting noise and other odors, according to court documents.
Other new features are a covered break area for workers, a decorative fence along Story Avenue and a 162-square-foot addition to an existing building where the animals are stunned, rendered unconscious and bled to death, documents show. The second bleeding line aims to meet federal safety regulations and comply with a grievance filed by union workers.
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