Late Wednesday the city of Dallas Board of Adjustment formally closed the slaughterhouse operation at a controversial meat packing plant in Oak Cliff. But the Columbia Meat Packing company had already closed the slaughter operation and now wants to remain open in another form.
The plant wants to carry on as only a meat processing operation, which is legal under the zoning there. But the vote calling the slaughterhouse out of compliance with city code is only a first step.
Neighbor after neighbor testified that the smell and noise coming from Columbia was offensive---and has been for years. "The scent is horrible; it is so horrible that you couldn't hardly breathe," said Erma Ceasar. Dwayne Evans added, "What's so bad is you cut on your air conditioning. You cut your air conditioning on it goes straight into your household. You know what I mean? It's hard for you to breathe."
Stanley Pounders added, "I think we deserve a place that doesn't smell all the time; the neighborhood is coming back."
The issue has been high profile for weeks, ever since what turned out to be pig blood was seen draining from the plant into a tributary of the Trinity River. City and federal inspectors say they eventually found secondary drains and hidden pipes meant to go around pollution monitors within the plant.
Columbia Packing Company has been a family operation for nearly a century. It employs about 100 people, and many of them appeared today to show support, though only one spoke, reading a prepared statement. but friends showed to argue against closing the operation.
Vince Aloi says he and the company has supported a charity for years. "Do you close up a 99-year-old business for a backed-up drainpipe? Well, I certainly hope not," he said, adding, "All these people that work at Columbia Meat Packing are people. It's not a building, it's the people that work there."
Roger Albright, the company's attorney, argued, "Columbia has been in this area for 75 years. We came into the industrial area . They came to us because the city chose to put these folks in a residential area next to a sewer plant, next to the slaughterhouse."
Columbia stopped the slaughter operation and is demolishing its animal holding pens. It hopes to reopen as strictly a meat processing plant and keep its workers employed. But it needs the blessing of another city department to issue a certificate of occupancy so it can resume work.
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