Environment

Pork processor JBS Swift now has official permission to use a Butchertown parking lot for staging refrigeration trucks, despite the objections of its neighbors.

Louisville’s Board of Zoning Adjustment voted unanimously on Monday night to allow Swift to continue using the lot on Cabel Street for truck staging. The approval came over the objection of the historic area’s neighborhood association, which had expressed concerns about the lot’s public health effects.

But the board put several conditions on the permit.

During an 11-hour meeting Monday, the board voted to require Swift to make its contractors adopt cleaner combustion technology and put up a tall wooden fence around the lot. Swift is also prohibited from operating within 100 feet of homes between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Swift has been using the lot on Cabel Street — a few blocks away from the company’s slaughterhouse — for the past nine years. Until earlier this year, the company was renting the lot from the Metropolitan Sewer District. Swift bought the lot for $790,000 in 2014, though questions were raised about the process.

After the sale went through and the staging lot became a permanent fixture in Butchertown, Swift sought a conditional use permit from the Board of Zoning Adjustment to continue using it. The issue has been on BOZA’s plate since August, and board members have held several hearings on the case.

The Butchertown Neighborhood Association opposed the permit request. Attorney Jon Salomon said the lot is an undesirable presence in the neighborhood for multiple reasons: It increases traffic and noise around the clock and doesn’t fit aesthetically into the neighborhood’s historic residential character.

But the main concern of Salomon and the BNA was diesel emissions from the refrigerated trucks sitting in the lot, and the effects those emissions could have on public health.

In response, Swift hired two companies to perform modeling and air tests on the Cabel Street lot to measure particulate matter leaving the lot. They presented evidence showing that emissions from the lot are far below background exposure levels.

But the BNA rejected those conclusions. Salomon argued the company relied on the national 24-hour standard for particulate matter, while a more appropriate amount would have been to look at the annual standard. The air monitoring wouldn’t have been in compliance with that standard.

“And it’s the annual standard that should be relevant here, because people live here all year long,” he said.

Swift will have to meet several conditions to mitigate the lot’s impact on the neighborhood.

The biggest public health concession is that within the next 18 months, all of the companies that bring refrigerated trucks onto the Cabel Street lot will be required to meet current California standards for diesel exhaust, which are among the strictest in the nation, or be equipped to plug into an electrical outlet.

Swift will also put up a large wooden fence around the property, install a 10-foot landscape buffer outside of the fence, and build a sidewalk. The company agreed it wouldn’t conduct any business within 100 feet of homes between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Salomon had sought a BOZA ruling earlier in the day to prohibit Swift from conducting any business on the lot between those hours because the property line is within 100 feet of homes; that appeal was rejected, but the condition applies to the areas of the lot in closest proximity to residents.

This was BOZA chairman David Proffitt’s last meeting in his role. Proffitt resigned both his position in BOZA and on the Planning and Design Commission late last month; he’s moving out-of-state for a new job.