Rendering plant foes ask court to block GAA from selling and leasing property to Pilgrim's

This aerial photo shows the Gadsden Airport Authority property on which Pilgrim's Pride wants to construct what it calls a "state-of-the-art" animal parts rendering plant.
This aerial photo shows the Gadsden Airport Authority property on which Pilgrim's Pride wants to construct what it calls a "state-of-the-art" animal parts rendering plant.

The Gadsden Airport Authority is slated to meet Friday, and opponents of a proposed rendering plant fully expect the authority to vote to sell or lease property to Pilgrim's Pride for construction of that plant.

Plaintiffs who've already bought suit to try to stop the plant are seeking a restraining order, asking a judge to stop the execution of a sale or lease if the authority OKs it in the meeting at 9 a.m. Friday in Building No. 3 at the airport fire station.

Attorneys Joshua Sullivan and Christie Knowles on Monday filed an emergency petition with Circuit Judge George Day for a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction and a permanent injunction to stop the GAA and Pilgrim's Pride from taking action toward:

• Allowing the sale, lease or use of airport property for the construction and/or operation of a rendering plant;

• Entering an agreement to contract, convey, deed, lease or otherwise allow use of the GAA property for a rendering plant without receiving approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Petition for Restraining Order With Exhibits a-F by USA TODAY Network on Scribd

Knowles said the judge could grant the motion, blocking the GAA from going forward with any agreement reached with Pilgrim's; set a hearing within 10 days; set a hearing prior to the meeting Friday; or deny the motion.

Rundown: Running down the rendering plant saga so far: Here are some of the major developments

The petition filed on behalf of Dynamic Collision and a group of local businesses and individuals says the parties believe when the airport authority meets Friday, it will approve the sale or lease — most likely a lease, they believe — of property to Pilgrim's Pride for construction and/or operation of a rendering plant.

Any sale or lease of the property for non-aeronautical purposes would violate the statutory provision by which the property was conveyed, and would violate the deed restrictions that apply to the property, the petition states.

Without prior approval from the FAA, the plaintiffs state, the sale or lease of the property for non-aeronautical purposes could not be executed or otherwise entered.

"As the defendant parties have acted both before and throughout this case," the petition contends, "the parties appear to be working in conjunction to bring to fruition a chicken rendering plant contrary to the widespread and almost unanimous public opinion against it.

"This motion is not intending to usurp the authority and discretion of the GAA, but simply asking this Court to enjoin, restrain and prevent the GAA from doing what it lacks the legal authority to do," it states.

Dynamic Collision took legal action in December 2020, seeking to block the rendering plant by challenging whether the I-1 zoning (light industrial) of the property allowed for a such a plant at the airport site.

A number of surrounding property owners were allowed to join the lawsuit. The lawsuit later was amended to challenge the plant as a potential nuisance to neighboring property owners.

The case has been set for trial in January in Day's court.

Since then, a group of business owners and individuals, some of the same ones who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, formed the group Etowah Community and made a proposal to buy or lease the property for a light industrial park.

Although court action has been pending, Pilgrim's appears to have continued to proceed with steps toward construction of the plant, in communications with GAA and in forms filed with the FAA.

According to the plaintiff's petition, the GAA is prepared to vote Friday and likely to vote to lease the property even though, they contend, a lease would be "much less beneficial to the City and GAA" because it would result in no ad valorem taxes for local schools, and liability for bird strikes and wildlife hazards would stay with the GAA as owner of the property.

"... The City and GAA appear to be willing to consider doing whatever it takes to bring a rendering plant to our county," the petition states.

Plaintiffs in the legal action along with Dynamic Collision are ZLA Solutions, Butler Properties, Clark Greer, Jordan Greer, Todd Hardin, Bo Shirley, Craig Inzer, Mark Weaver, Jerry Weaver, Harold Weaver, Denise Weaver, Bryan White, Keith Holland, Randy Vise, William Leach, Jared Minton, Lawrence WIlliamson III, Mason Caldwell, Teresa Drummond, J. Craig King, J.D. Holt, Perman Engineering, Trent Thrasher Construction, and Choice Fabricators.

Contact Gadsden Times reporter Donna Thornton at 256-393-3284 or donna.thornton@gadsdentimes.com.

This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: Gadsden Airport Authority rendering plant foes seek to block Pilgrim's