Proposed nuisance ordinance concerns dairy owners

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Action on a proposed nuisance ordinance for Curry County is being placed on hold pending some “tweaking” to ensure fairness to dairy, agriculture and business entities.

County Manager Lance Pyle said in the last two weeks he has received letters and phone calls from ranchers, farmers, dairy owners and members of the community expressing concern about the proposed ordinance.

In the interest of those concerns, Pyle said the ordinance will be up for community input in Tuesday’s meeting, but no action will be taken.

“I can’t see hurrying through something that still needs tweaking and then we have to come back in a couple of months and do addendums or amendments or repeal (the ordinance) because it was not serving the purpose and the need it was intended to,” Pyle said.

One item of particular concern is a section of the ordinance dealing with offensive odors, something that could easily be applied to dairies that are meeting environmental guidelines even though they emit odor, Commission Chairman Albin Smith said.

“Who’s going to say (what is an) offensive odor? It won’t be very long and we’ll have federal (air quality) guidelines coming,” Smith said. “That’s just not a job that the county level needs to get into.”

For those in the dairy and agriculture industries, Pyle said the proposed ordinance by interpretation could mean tougher restrictions than those already imposed by state and federal environmental enforcement agencies.

“The dairies have very strong environmental laws they have to follow, so in my opinion, why does the county need to set something?” he said.

In July, commissioners unanimously passed a notice of intent to adopt the ordinance. Action was to be taken after public input Tuesday.

The intention of the ordinance, Pyle said, was not to cross over and possibly exceed existing environmental policy.

“I think we as the county, we have a responsibility to serve the tax payers and there has to be some happy medium that everybody can live with and we can also improve the community and keep it healthy and safe for the residents,” Pyle said.

Commission Chairman Albin Smith said since the potential problems in the ordinance were discovered, there hasn’t been a day gone by that he hasn’t gotten a call from a county resident.

Smith said he has issue with what he sees as redundancy in the ordinance where it overlaps laws already in place.

“It’s not that we’re trying to dodge it, but there was no way that for me I was going to be in favor of it the way its written now,” he said.

Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, said her group sent mailings to 50 of its members living in Curry County, asking them to read the ordinance carefully and be aware of the potential ramifications.

“I think that as you read the ordinance, you’ll find a pile of manure could be a violation. (It could be a problem) if you had a neighbor that got mad at you and wanted to take the thing to its fullest,” she said.