Judge: Feedlot violates ordinance on animals

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 9, 2003

CENTREVILLE &045; After hearing testimony from several witnesses in a two-hour hearing Monday night, a Centreville judge ruled a local cattleman violated a town ordinance against keeping animals that are &uot;offensive to the eyes, ears or nose.&uot;

Centreville residents Hampton Lea and Daniel Courtney both filed charges Nov. 4 against Vine Cattle Conditioning and its operator, Lew Vine.

Represented at the hearing by Liberty attorney Wayne Smith, Lea and Courtney are among several residents who live near the cattle conditioning yard and have complained to local officials that it creates an offensive odor and generates flies.

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Municipal Judge David S. &uot;Shep&uot; Crawford ordered Vine to pay a $500 fine and serve 15 days in jail, but suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow time for Vine to abate the violation or appeal the decision.

Vine’s attorney, Ridgeland lawyer Edward P. Lobrano, said an appeal is likely.

&uot;There is a high probability that we will not only appeal this decision, but we may also file a federal lawsuit against the Town of Centreville for violating my client’s constitutional rights,&uot; Lobrano said.

Vine, 42, has operated Vine Cattle Conditioning on property adjacent to Mississippi 24 and Hospital Road in Centreville since March 2002.

About a third of the 65-acre site lies within the town limits.

Lobrano said the town should not have prosecuted Vine after it had previously issued permits for him to operate his business.

Lobrano also argued the ordinance is too vague.

&uot;Men of reasonable intelligence must guess as to its meaning and differ as to its application. Š This matter should be addressed in chancery court with injunctive, rather than criminal relief,&uot; Lobrano said.

Smith said he intended to file a motion for injunctive relief in Wilkinson County Chancery Court on behalf of other residents who live outside the city limits.

Testifying in his own defense, Vine said his father was an order buyer in the cattle business, and the town had issued permits to his family’s cattle operations for the past 35 years.

&uot;We’ve worked hard for that land. Our whole family has worked hard for it,&uot; he said.

Vine said he contacted officials with the state’s Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Health, as well as the United States Department of Agriculture in an effort to find out what licensing requirements he needed to meet.

&uot;I’m not running a feedlot.

It’s a processing and conditioning lot. We work the cows &045; vaccinate and brand them,&uot; Vine said.

Vine said feedlot operations require concrete feeding bunkers and keep cattle up to 120 days.

He said he keeps an average herd of 600 cattle on the property, but most are shipped out within 30 to 40 days.

The cattle are fed a high-protein diet but are not allowed to graze at the conditioning yard, he said.

Vine said he recently learned from state officials that a Comprehensive Nuisance Management Plan permit was needed for his business.

Smith said the town permit merely allows for the &uot;caretaking of cattle,&uot; and town officials were unaware of the exact nature of Vine’s business.

Vine said he began adding a larvaecide to the cattle feed this summer to help prevent flies.

Lobrano noted that the ordinance does not address insects and called witnesses to cast doubt on whether the flies and odor are actually generated by the cattle operation.

Emmett Knighton testified that some residents of his Elysian Fields neighborhood &045; near the cattle yard and just south of the town limits &045; are running their raw sewage on the ground.

Another witness, Rickey Jackson, said the town’s sewage lagoon is inoperable and causes a foul odor. The lagoon is located about a quarter-mile west of the Vine property. The town recently secured a $300,000 grant to replace the lagoon’s aerators and refurbish its filter system.

Lea and Courtney both said while they could not be positive the flies were generated by the cattle manure, they never had any problems with odor or flies until Vine started his cattle conditioning business.

&uot;At times the odor is nauseating. It’s embarrassing when I have company over. They ask me how I can stand it,&uot; Lea said.

And former Centreville Mayor JoAnn Smylie, who has lived on Hospital Road across from the Vine property for 43 years, testified she is certain the odor she smells comes from cattle manure.

&uot;It’s a stench. … As a child, I grew up two blocks from the stockyards in Fort Worth, and it’s the same odor I smelled there,&uot; she said.