Neighbors concerned about water quality, property values


Editor's Note: After deadline, the Telegram received notification from County Planner Gary Childs, consideration of the subdivision application for the proposed Torrington Livestock sale barn on property east of Torrington was pulled from consideration during the Wednesday, May 20, Goshen County Planning Commission meeting.

GOSHEN COUNTY – A group of residents who own property east of Torrington adjacent to the proposed future home of one of Torrington’s long-standing agri-businesses are worried.

Gib Smith, his daughter Megan Billinger and their neighbors Lonny and Sue Rawlings say they’re afraid the runoff from the new sale barn could contaminate the groundwater they rely on to feed their wells. They’re also concerned their property values will plummet after the new facility is built.

But most of all, they said, they didn’t appreciate the way Torrington Livestock and Dinklage Feed Yard – current owners of the almost 26-acre field where the sale barn owners propose building – notified them of the plans.

“We didn’t know anything about it until we got this letter” about May 8, Lonny Rawlings said. “This was the first we knew about it.”

The issue will go before the Goshen County Planning Commission at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Wednesday) in the county commission room at the courthouse in Torrington. County Planner Gary Childs said in response to an email, the purpose of the meeting is to consider “a sketch plan for a subdivision permit. Our understanding is the intended use for this subdivision is a livestock sale barn.”

The Rawlings, Smith and Billinger said they’re worried the meeting is just a formality.

“The letter makes it sound like, before we ever got the letter, (the land sale) was a done deal,” Lonny said. “They’re going to do this; this is just a formality.”

Smith agreed: “I believe it is. I believe it’s already done, and now they’re just jumping through the hoops.”

The trio – along with the rest of their neighbors who were unavailable for interviews – have two primary concerns, they said. The water table under the field in question is very close to the surface, with portions of the field routinely too wet to farm. 

Also, they’re worried the presence of the sale barn in such close proximity will decrease the value of
their properties.

“As soon as this is passed, our property values go into the toilet,” Smith said. “Even if we wanted to sell, I talked to a realtor and he thought we’d lose 50%.

“We personally wouldn’t have bought this if (a sale barn) was right there,” he said. “We spent a pretty good chunk of money on this place and for them to move in, there’s no way we’d ever recoup our money.”

Smith and Billinger are the largest land holder of the four neighbors concerned about the plans, they said.

“Another thing is, this is low ground,” Smith said. “What are they going to do with the runoff.”

Rawlings, who farmed the piece of ground in question for half a century, agreed. On some parts of the field, the gravel bed starts two feet below the surface, for example, he said.

Lex Madden, responding to questions from The Telegram via email, per his request, said “extensive engineering designs on drainage” will help control runoff at the site, and state statutes mandating monitoring wells will allow monitoring of the groundwater.

“And in 86 years of business at our current location there has never been an issue,” Madden wrote in his email.

The new Torrington Livestock Market will “have a smaller footprint than our current location,” he wrote. “With newer equipment for our sound system, we can decrease our noise pollution.”

Plans for the move have been in the works since the early 2000s, Madden said in the email. It was only when the location became available did he and his partners – Michael Schmitt and Chuck Petersen – decide it was the right time for the move.

“Everybody agrees it needs to move,” landowner Smith said. “It’s in a bad spot in town. There’s three or four of us who are opposed to this, while in town there are 2,000 (who’d like to see the sale barn moved.

“There’s 2,000 reasons for them to move and they’ll only have to deal with the four of us out here,” he said. “It’s just easier to deal with the four of us than with all the people in the city. That’s why I say I think this was a done deal before they sent the letter out to us.”

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