05/01/11 — Second lawsuit filed to stop chicken plant in Nash County

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Second lawsuit filed to stop chicken plant in Nash County

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 1, 2011 1:50 AM

A second lawsuit has been filed in Superior Court against Nash County in hopes of stopping construction of a Sanderson Farms poultry processing plant just north of the county's border with Wilson County.

Motions from the first lawsuit that was filed last November are expected to be heard next month in Superior Court in Nashville.

While not party to the lawsuit, the Raleigh City Council said in a press release that it has authorized city staff to submit comments on the plant's impact.

According to the release, "The city of Raleigh is concerned that the environmental impact of this significant increase in poultry production has not been appropriately analyzed and the sizable reductions in nutrients discharged to the Neuse River (by municipalities such as the City of Raleigh) would be undone, if the project proceeds as proposed.

"The city will submit comments to the State of North Carolina, urging that the environmental impacts of Project Baseball (the project's codename), the resulting increase in Confided Animal Feed Operations (CAFO), the potential impact to municipal water supply watersheds and the potential impacts to the Neuse River/Tar-Pamlico estuaries be appropriately evaluated and mitigated before the project proceeds."

The company recently opened a new processing plant in Kinston that will employ 1,500 people and Wayne County had been an early contender for the second plant that could create upwards of about 1,100 jobs and an investment of about $94 million. However, since last fall, the focus has shifted to the Nash County site.

Sanderson Farms officials in February said the economy had prompted the company to delay construction of the second plant.

The city of Wilson is a party to both lawsuits and also has threatened to file an injunction against Nash County if it continues to pursue Sanderson Farms.

The Nash County Board of Commissioners earlier this month approved, for the second time, the rezoning of about 150 acres near Interstate 95 and N.C. 97 that have been identified as a potential location for Sanderson Farms.

The lawsuit filed this week alleges that commissioners' rezoning decision should be null and void because the county did not comply with state laws. It also alleges that county officials failed to consider more than 195 other permissible uses allowed for general industrial use by rezoning the site.

Also, alleged is that the plant would pollute water sources -- including ones that the city of Wilson uses for drinking water -- devalue property and adversely affect the quality of life.

Nash County officials deny those claims.

The plaintiffs, the city of Wilson and several Nash and Wilson county residents, want a jury trial and for Nash County to bear the cost of the lawsuit.

The first lawsuit was filed Nov. 19 by the city of Wilson and more than 30 Nash and Wilson county property owners who allege that Nash County failed to follow state zoning rules when it voted Nov. 1 to rezone the property from single-family residential and rural commercial to general industrial.