Holly Dairy Farm May Get Second Chance

Keith Siemsen, Prowers County Land Use Adiministrator

Keith Siemsen, Prowers County Land Use Adiministrator

A Texas judge’s decision this past September, to delist the Prairie Chicken on the Endangered Species List, may have opened the door for the development of the stalled Holly dairy project initiated last year under a special use permit.

Keith Siemsen, Prowers County Land Use Administrator, met with the Prowers County Commissioners and County Attorney, John Lefferdink, on Tuesday, October 13, advising them of the new developments. At that point, no one, including members of the County Planning Commission, had any certainty that the dairy had plans to move forward.  Siemsen voiced a concern on future plans, stating that the special use permit issued last July had expired.  He explained, “Based on our zoning regulations the permit is in force to allow them to initiate the use of the permit for one year.”  There was some concern over the specifics of the permit in that the parties had to be active in the intent of the permit, basically, dairy operations, and not construction of any sort on the acreage.

To be on legal ground and safe from any consequences, both Lefferdink and Siemsen felt the land owners should re-apply for a new permit which would not necessarily be that difficult as most of the groundwork for the initial permit had been done. Siemsen added, “If they’re building a $50M dairy, they’re going to have a lender assured that their permit is perfectly valid.  That lender wants assurance from us that the permit is fully enforceable, but right now, we can’t.”  Lefferdink explained that in light of the listing of the bird, the Planning Commission might have been able to extend the expiration of the permit if there was some dairy activity on the land, “But once the year is up, I don’t think we have the ability to reinstate something that has expired.  He suggested that a review of the regulations would be in order at some point in the future.

The commissioners were on board with any development that could aid the dairy farm development. Wendy Buxton-Andrade asked if there was a way to expedite the new application and hold a special Planning Commission meeting to set up a public hearing instead of the monthly meeting schedule.  Commissioner Schnabel expressed his frustration with government regulations, “To me, this is ridiculous…some regulation that impacts a business like this.  It’s just an example of government intrusion into the lives of people.  I’m really upset with this.”

Siemsen said that despite the regulations, there may be another side that wants to be heard on the issue, and if all the steps weren’t followed, it could cause unanticipated delays on getting the new permit issued. Commissioner Cook suggested seeing if the application fee could be waived and asked Siemsen to see if a special meeting could be held before December.

The original special use permit lists the dairy farm at 6,000 head of milking cows and maximum feeding capacity of 7,000 cows. The milk production was estimated to be at 420,000 pounds a day with feed demand at 595,000 pounds per day.  Half of the feed would be purchased from outside parties. The dairy was designed to employ 24 persons full time with combined annual salaries of $2 M.  Other economic benefits included annual real estate taxes for the county at $80,262 and temporary construction salaries would run to $4M while the dairy was being built.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: AgricultureBusinessCommissionersCountyEconomyEmploymentEnvironmentFeaturedHollyLamarProwers County


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