Aerial view of the JB Swift plant (via LOJIC)
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Monday morning, JB Swift will appear before the Metro Louisville Board of Zoning Adjustments (BOZA) to beg forgiveness for illegally starting construction on an expansion to their plant in Butchertown. Swift needs a modified Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to operate at the site and continue with their expansion. Needless to say, the Butchertown Neighborhood Association will be there to fight for the communities surrounding the facility.

According to the Ville-Voice, the Butchertown Neighborhood Association has drafted a 16-page “prehearing statement” of opposition to Swift’s approval. All the gory details are there and nothing is spared. Butchertown presents three arguments in their case: the neighborhood has changed dramatically in past decades, the expansion is inconsistent with the neighborhood plan adopted as part of the city’s Cornerstone 2020 comprehensive plan, and that the company has demonstrated “bad faith and unlawful conduct” in their expansion efforts.

Butchertown’s statement suggests the plant would be better located in another part of Jefferson County where it’s not incompatible with its surroundings and notes that a “sophisticated multinational corporation” such as JB Swift has behaved as if ignoring local law and regulation and paying the applicable yet paltry fines is just the “cost of doing business.” The $47,800 fine paid by Swift last year for several years of violations probably goes unnoticed at a company that earned $1.5 Billion last year.

The statement notes the original conditional use permit was granted in 1969 when the Bourbon Stockyards directly neighbored the site (where the Home of the Innocents is today) with a staff report indicating that approval was granted “for the use as it now exists” and “increases in size of the present use, or alteration of existing uses or structures will need additional approval.”

The document then moves on to detail what it is exactly we’re smelling in the air in neighborhoods surrounding the plant and the foul problems of incompatibility that have become apparent with a revitalizing urban core:

The communities neighboring the Story Avenue Facilities have been subjected to a steadily increasing barrage of horrific odors, spills and sounds resulting from JBS/Swift’s dramatic expansion of its operations. These gross nuisances have included the overpowering stench of pig feces, urine, vomit, rotting pig carcasses, souring pig blood, other decaying animal byproducts, boiling and burning animal remains (including heads, feet, hair, entrails, blood and other body parts) and chemical agents such as chlorine dioxide.

If that’s not bad enough, the report goes on to describe what’s left strewn on on our local roads around the plant and left to decay or wash into local waterways from slaughtering “nearly 4.7 million pigs” a year in the heart of Louisville.

And we’re only to page six! It doesn’t get any better from there, although a little less grotesque. (Read the full statement from Butchertown over here [Warning: PDF].)

Luckily the neighborhood has garnered the support of Metro Councilman David Tandy who has drafted his own letter in support of relocating the JB Swift facility. He begins with the obligatory “keep the jobs in Louisville” and continues on to push the concerns of the neighborhood (read Tandy’s full letter here).

I am committed to working to retain JBS Swift and the jobs it currently provides and will create in the future in Louisville Metro for many years to come.

With that being said, I am strongly in favor, however, of developing a plan that would move Swift out of the Historic Butchertown Neighborhood in the near future and into a suitable location within Jefferson County that will provide the space needed for its continued service to this community as a viable business, while at the same time amicably coexisting with the environment around it.

As for the issue before you tomorrow regarding the expansion of JBS Swift, while I understand this issue is under your authority as a board and respect your final decision, I am disappointed with the way this matter has been handled. In my opinion the neighborhood association and BOZA were not involved or notified in an appropriate manner.

I respectfully ask that as the Board moves forward with this matter that the thoughts and opinions of the citizens that call Butchertown home be given your full attention and consideration.

This seems to be the decision time on whether the JB Swift plant will ever be relocated. Company-neighborhood relations are at an all time low and now Swift has been caught building an illegal expansion that could prove to be the straw that broke the camels back. City officials have already endorsed the relocation effort and last year suggested that it could happen within five year’s time, but if we don’t hear something dramatic out of the BOZA meeting, when will another chance to relocate the plant and transform Louisville’s near-Downtown neighborhoods in such a dramatic way present itself? Stay tuned for more.

More Butchertown vs. Swift coverage from Broken Sidewalk:

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Branden Klayko

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