Lawyers for Pilgrim's Pride on Monday filed notice, seeking to move the Dynamic Collision lawsuit to U.S. District Court.
The immediate result: The hearing slated for Wednesday on a requested preliminary injunction against construction of a rendering plant at the Northeast Alabama Regional Airport is delayed until the federal courts can determine whether it's the proper venue for the rendering plant question.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs — Dynamic Collision and an number of businesses and individuals who intervened in the case — call it a legal maneuver to bring the rendering plant to reality.
Attorney Christie Knowles said there's already been an attempt to move the case to federal court — brought by the City of Gadsden — and a federal court found it to be an issue for the courts in Etowah County. She said plaintiffs will again oppose the moving of the case to federal court.
The filing from lawyers for Pilgrim's claims the latest plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction against a rendering plant raised a bona fide federal legal issue by evoking the U.S. Surplus Property Act that gave the airport property to the City of Gadsden after World War II's end.
The plaintiffs' filing last week cited restrictions set on the use of the property back in the 1940s — limiting it to aeronautical purposes, and barring industrial use, raised the possibility that any Gadsden Airport Authority actions to lease or sell property to Pilgrim's could cost the airport future federal grants.
“Recently, Plaintiffs sought an emergency injunction on grounds that the deeds by which the federal government transferred the property to the city prohibited both industrial and non-aeronautical uses," a spokesperson from Pilgrim's said. "This argument brought (into) play the meaning of several federal statutes and regulations. And, since the federal government subsequently revoked those restrictions, a federal court is the appropriate forum to resolve that issue.”
Attorneys for Pilgrim's filed the notice, but the filings stated attorneys for the other defendants "consent to and join" the action.
"The City of Gadsden already tried to move this case to federal court and was unsuccessful because the federal court agree that this is a local, Etowah County issue," Knowles said in a statement.
"This is just another legal maneuver by Pilgrim's, the Gadsden Airport Authority and the City of Gadsden to bring into reality its long sought after rendering plant at our airport," she continued. "While Pilgrim's filed the notice, they all signed off on the request asking that the case be moved to federal court and are clearly working as a team to fight those opposed to this rendering plant.
"The GAA and the City of Gadsden are not even trying anymore to hide the fact that they are taking orders from Pilgrim's Pride and are actively working against the interests of their own citizens to bring this rendering plant here," she said.
The hearing slated for Wednesday was part of a legal challenge against the zoning of the property at the airport proposed for the rendering plant, potential spot zoning of the property and the potential nuisance plaintiffs believe the plant would become.
Believing the GAA was poised to vote to lease the property to Pilgrim's, the plaintiffs sought and received a temporary restraining order to block the the authority from acting on a lease, should it vote to approve one. The hearing Wednesday would have allowed arguments on pending motions in the case.
Any state court action is halted now to await the federal court decision on Pilgrim's request to move the case.
Contact Gadsden Times reporter Donna Thornton at 256-393-3284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: Pilgrim's latest move would take rendering plant case to federal court