County hears Milner proposal

Meat processing plan draws ire

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— The Routt County Regional Planning Commission tonight will consider a proposal for a beef processing facility in Milner.

The proposal comes from rancher Doug Matthews, who is asking to build a facility similar to a supermarket meat department, where beef carcasses are cut and processed.

Some Milner residents have serious concerns, expressed in several letters submitted to the county planning department.

Matthews says many of those concerns are unfounded.

Colleen Manley, an adjacent property owner, said she worries a meat packing plant could use too much water and have a negative effect on Milner's wastewater system, and that it would depreciate the value of Milner property.

She especially worries that the facility, if approved, eventually could become a slaughterhouse.

"Once he gets his foot in the door, then the rest will probably come into being," Manley said. "I don't think that anybody wants to be living right next door to a meat packaging facility, which has the potential of becoming a slaughterhouse facility."

One sentence in Matthews' original application letter says he might want to incorporate a slaughter facility in the future.

Matthews said he is not applying for a slaughterhouse and does not anticipate trying to have one at the site.

Matthews said he plans to use the facility for three years and then move elsewhere. Eventually, he said he might want to open a slaughter and packing facility in Craig.

The Planning Commission will make a recommendation on the proposal, then the Routt County Board of Commissioners will make the final decision May 24.

Routt County Planner John Eastman said he disagrees with the idea that an approval of the meat packaging facility could open the door to a slaughterhouse.

"It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to make a slaughterhouse fit on that small parcel, that close to a residential neighborhood," Eastman said.

Any future proposals would require a new permit and would be evaluated at that time, he said.

Matthews sells his beef under his own River Ranches Beef label. Currently, he contracts with a Craig facility for slaughtering and meat fabrication. Doing his own meat fabrication would mean better quality control and saved money, he said.

The operation would not create any offensive noise or other effects outside of the building, according to the planning report. There would be no visual change because an existing building would be used. As many as a dozen one-way vehicle trips to and from the building are expected each day.

The applicant would be required to get a commercial well permit and could have to put a grease trap in the main water line to minimize possible effects on the Milner wastewater facility.

Also tonight, the Planning Commission will consider a request from Karrie's Kick-Ass Katering to open a summer barbecue stand on U.S. Highway 40 between the Shop 'n' Hop gas station and the Mount Werner Veterinary Hospital, as well as a request from the Elk Mountain Cemetery for an official special use permit for the cemetery.

The Routt County Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. in the Commissioners Hearing Room of the Routt County Courthouse Annex.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com

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