Neighbors near the Columbia Meat Packing Company in Oak Cliff were the winners of a City Hall battle over pig blood dumped into a creek flowing toward Trinity River. KERA’s BJ Austin says the Dallas Board of Adjustment ordered the slaughterhouse shut down immediately – even though Columbia announced last month it was closing it forever. KERA’s BJ Austin reports.
At the start of a sometimes contentious, three hour hearing Roger Albright, Columbia Packing’s attorney told Board of Adjustment members they needn’t bother.
Albright: The only issue before this Board is the non-conforming use. That has already been resolved.
The slaughterhouse was considered non-conforming because it was not outside of zoning. City officials insisted on presenting their case against Columbia and its adverse impact on the environment and the neighborhood – one of the criteria for shutting it down.
Neighbors Stanley Pounders and Irma Caesar came to testify.
Pounders: A lot of times when I tried to rent houses in the past, people would say what’s that smell?
Caesar: You couldn’t hardly breathe sometimes. You hold your breath, and it would make you sick. It was a horrible, horrible scent.
Both say the neighborhood smells much nicer since slaughtering was stopped.
Columbia’s attorney noted that the city of Dallas never ONCE issued a code violation to the company – in that location on East 11th for 75 years. The company’s slaughterhouse operated as a non-conforming use since 1965.
Board of Adjustment member Samuel Gillespie told City Attorneys he didn’t get it. Why nothing until 2012?
Gillespie: An incredible head scratcher for me. It’s been going on for so long and the neighbors have had to put up with it.
Assistant City Attorney Melissa Miles declined to comment on that, but did say the current pig blood investigation has turned up more blood red water. She says they’ve found it in older aerial photos from a map company.
Miles: And this was more than a year before that search warrant was executed. And you see the creek? Let me blow it up for you. It looks just like those other photographs.
Columbia’s attorney Roger Albright says December’s pig blood discharge was fixed quickly by the company and the issue shouldn’t even have come up at the hearing.
Albright: It’s for the city to grandstand. The city is trying to make up for 50 years for environmental racism on this case. All of a sudden, the city’s going to come rushing to the rescue of these folks: like all of a sudden they’re important. And they’re going to do it on the back of Columbia.
Columbia is applying to the city for a new permit to operate as a meat processing plant, something allowed by current zoning.
A criminal investigation into the pig blood dumping is ongoing.