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New day in court for Brawley beef plant

February 09, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — The under-construction beef-processing plant here will face a new day in court as company officials hope to bring a quick end to a legal challenge.

Brawley City Attorney Dennis Morita said this morning B.P. Ventures, the company that is building and would operate the plant, has filed a demurrer in Imperial County Superior Court.

That demurrer, if approved by Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Jones, would end a lawsuit brought against the city, B.P. Ventures and others by Brawley business owner Darwin Cohee.

A hearing on the demurrer will be conducted Feb. 16 in the County Courthouse in El Centro.

The demurrer seeks a quick end to Cohee's lawsuit by pointing out Cohee failed to name B.P. Ventures as a defendant when he first filed his case. The demurrer states while Cohee did eventually name B.P. Ventures, he did not do so within the statute of limitations.

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If Jones denies the demurrer, Cohee's lawsuit would continue through the procedures that would lead to a hearing on the merits of Cohee's case.

Cohee's lawsuit stems from his concern that his soil-reclamation business would be hurt by traffic on Shank Road brought by the beef plan. Cohee's business and the beef plant are both on Shank in the eastern portion of the city.

Prior to the legal challenge, Cohee had asked the Brawley City Council to rescind a permit awarded by the city Planning Commission that allowed the project to move forward.

The council ruled the permit should remain in place and that the traffic concerns on Shank were adequately addressed by traffic studies done for the project.

Cohee has said the council left him no recourse but to protect his business by filing a lawsuit.

Earlier, the city filed a demurrer similar to the one filed by B.P. Ventures. Jones ruled the city had no standing upon which to seek the demurrer.

He ruled it was up to B.P. Ventures to file such an action.

Since then, Alamitos Land Co. has been added as a defendant. Alamitos owns the 100 acres upon which the beef plant is being built.

The beef plant is moving forward and company officials hope it will be ready for operation by October.

The plant is expected to create 600 full-time jobs initially and that could rise to 1,200 jobs.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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