CAFO permit stayed after appeal hearing

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Those who oppose construction of a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) near Roaring River State Park have been successful in getting the construction permit stayed by the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission.

The judge who heard an appeal, which was filed by neighboring property owner Mark Stephenson and a large number of individuals representing Friends of Roaring River, announced his decision to stay the permit on July 31. The judge said he made his decision based on the fact that not all of the legal requirements for the permit had been met.

Michele Ozbun, who is building the four pullet houses off of Highway F in Eagle Rock, said construction is already complete on her pullet houses and she plans to have chickens on site before too long.

"The issues with the stay have all been taken care of," said Ozbun. "I have an attorney in Jefferson City who is taking care of things, and we'll be up and running soon."

Ozbun said this battle with those who oppose the location of her pullet operation is a fight she doesn't intend to lose.

"This is my Century Farm at stake and I can't afford to lose, emotionally or financially," Ozbun said.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued an initial construction permit for the four poultry houses, which qualify as a Class 1C CAFO, in March. Within days of that announcement, a number of area residents filed an appeal with DNR claiming the CAFO would threaten water quality and negatively affect nearby Roaring River State Park.

An administrative hearing on the appeal was held on July 15, and on July 25, Commissioner John Kopp ruled that a waiver on setbacks obtained by Ozbun from a neighbor was not valid and therefore issued a stay.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources will not issue an operating permit for the Ozbun farm until the stay is lifted.

While Ozbun sees the action taken against her as very temporary, those representing the Friends of Roaring River are hopeful the ruling will help their cause.

Jim Riedel, a founding member of the Friends of Roaring River, said the group of concerned citizens views the stay as a positive move in the right direction. Riedel points to a statement made by Commissioner Kopp in a letter he wrote explaining the stay. He writes "we do not think our stay is the only hurdle to her beginning operations," referring to Ozbun.

"The Friends of Roaring River are trying very hard to prevent what is happening in other areas of the state from taking place in our back yards," said Riedel. "You don't wait until there is a large fish kill and our wells are dry or full of manure before reacting."

The Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission has scheduled another hearing on the issue, which will be held Jan. 7 through Jan. 11, 2008, in Jefferson City.

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