The Gadsden Airport Authority is asking the court to issue a summary judgment in its favor in an anti-rendering plant lawsuit brought by Dynamic Collision and other plaintiffs, saying the issues are moot after the GAA voted to reject the proposal for the plant.
GAA attorney James Williams filed the motion late Wednesday, after attorneys for Dynamic Collision and other plaintiffs in the zoning challenge filed a request for a status conference to clarify positions regarding the proposal from Pilgrim's Pride to buy or least property at the airport for a rendering plant.
"All issues regarding the proposal from Pilgrims are now resolved," the motion states. "On December 17, 2021, the GAA voted unanimously to reject the two proposals for industrial development at the Gadsden Airport, including the proposal of Pilgrim's Pride."
That vote, the defendant GAA argues, eliminates the issues regarding GAA raised in the legal action.
"The present case is now dead. It died with the vote of the GAA on December 17, 2021," the motions states. "Plaintiffs filed suit to prevent the GAA from accepting a proposal from Pilgrim's and that goal has been accomplished by the GAA's vote on December 17, 2021."
Plaintiff's attorney Christie Knowles said the motion is premature - that the vote is not enough to guarantee the rendering plant issue is dead forever.
"If their vote means what it claims, they should be able to promise the people of Etowah County that (the GAA) will never again negotiate to sell or lease their property for a rendering plant," Knowles said. "Unless they are willing to do this, it premature to ask for a dismissal."
More: Gadsden Airport Authority commended for vote against Pilgrim's Pride rendering plant proposal
Dynamic Collision, a business neighboring the property that had been proposed as a site for a rendering plant , filed suite challenging zoning of the property. The lawsuit was joined by dozens of additional property owners, and a challenge of the plant as a potential nuisance was added to the claim.
It had been set for trial in January before Etowah County Presiding Judge George Day. The City of Gadsden is named also as a defendant in the lawsuit, and Pilgrim's Pride became a party to the suit this summer, when its attorneys asked to intervene in the case.
The widespread opposition to the proposed plant led a group identified as Etowah Community offering a proposal to buy or lease the property for development of a park dedicated to light industry.
The GAA voted to reject both proposals.
"When this case first started in December 2020, the GAA was working behind the scenes with Pilgrim's to bring the rendering plant to the airport," Knowles said. "They had no written proposal in place and were doing this all behind the scenes. On June 10, 2021, the court ruled that, indeed, these behind-the-scenes negotiations were occurring despite the fact there was allegedly no written proposal."
A formal written proposal from Pilgrim's came in June 2021, Knowles said, and that's what the GAA voted to reject on Dec. 17.
"So, while we believe that the recent vote is a good first step, the GAA started negotiations with Pilgrim's with no written proposal and we should be sure that there are no backroom negotiations still ongoing," she said. "We need the GAA to agree to never enter into any negotiations or contracts with Pilgrim's for a rendering plant.
"Therefore, considering this prior history, the GAA asking the court to dismiss his case is premature."
Contact Gadsden Times reporter Donna Thornton at 256-393-3284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: GAA seeks ruling in rendering plant case, says issues resolved