Many questions still remain regarding proposed meat processing facility

RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Western Legacy Development Corporation held a public question and answer forum Monday evening at the Journey Museum in Rapid City regarding their proposed $1.1 billion, high-tech meat processing facility. While the event answered concerned residents’ questions about the smell, truck and rail traffic, water, housing, working conditions, and hiring – one big question remained – the location.

On June 6, Megan Kingsbury, President and CEO of Western Legacy Development Corporation announced that the proposed location for the facility would be in the Rapid City Industrial Park, which is being developed by Dream Design International.

“This area was set aside through Rapid City’s master plans and future land use plans as the next logical space for the city to expand its heavy industrial base so this area, which is adjacent to the landfill and sits south of town takes advantage of a lot of different things that were planned and laid into motion you know long before this project came in.” said Kyle Treloar, Vice-President of Dream Design.

Residents both for and against the plant, as well as those who were on the fence, were in attendance to ask questions.

“So if I could just summarize what I’ve heard so far, and you’ll correct me if it’s wrong…. you’re going to build this one-of-a-kind packing plant that’s never been built anywhere before. There is going to be plenty of supply (of cattle) all around the area (in) the 200-mile radius. There’s going to be great jobs. The cows will be killed humanely and there won’t be a feedlot. The water sounds like it’s taken care of. You’re going to have that treatment plant. So we are just in the planning stages or is it happening here in western South Dakota, or is it still not a done deal?” asked Joni Johnson, Rapid City resident, and retired school teacher.

Kingsbury replied, “It’s a done deal. I can speak confidently in that. It’s not easy. If it were easy someone else would have already done it. And what Joni’s summary was, is spot on. Obviously, we’re working through the research and development phase. We’ve allowed ourselves six months for that and a lot of that is, it’s not an experimental phase. We’re not calling it experimental for a reason. And it’s not exploratory. This will happen. It’s a matter of making sure that we create the best model on that blank sheet of paper that we have. We want to be responsible with everything that we do. So yes, it is a done deal.”

Kingsbury said that she hopes to have a groundbreaking ceremony for the plant in January of 2023.

The Industrial Park is also the location for the Aesire Technologies $1.2 million battery plant, as well as several other proposed businesses. The battery plant will be built on 500 acres in the park. Treloar says bids for the battery plant’s dirt work will be opened on July 21, with work expected to start immediately after.

“They are on an aggressive timeline similar to this facility,” he said.

The question was posed as to how both facilities would fit in the park.

“That’s the detail that we’re working on right now, is how do we fit this? There’s obviously an entire logistical side of the railcars coming in, the street infrastructure. That’s the layout that we’re working through. We’re working with their design team to understand their facilities, to make sure that we do have room, that we do have a site available for this,” said Treloar.

At the Western Legacy question-and-answer session in Wall on June 30, Treloar said, “Really, it’s simple.We’re working with everybody together to make sure that we have a site for everybody. So we’re going to ensure that we can fit everybody together. We’ve got alternate sites that we’re looking at. We’re going to make it work.” Kingsbury and Treloar both refused to disclose where the alternate sites were located.

At that same meeting, Dream Design was asked about the environmental impact studies. Treloar said that environmental impact studies have been done on all of the proposed site locations.

“Like the industrial park, all the environmental, our environmental main studies, those are all underway, and I’ve got most of them completed at this point. So I’ve got cultural resources, archeological studies, wetlands mitigation, flood plain studies, we’ve got our phase one environmentals. So all of those are complete at this point,” said Treloar.

The preliminary master plan for the Industrial Park does not currently include the Western Legacy Development Corp. meat processing facility. Black Hills Industrial Center Master Plan

Dream Design’s President Hani Shafai, released a statement Tuesday afternoon that stated:

“The map outlines who we have had discussions with on the Black Hills Industrial Park. We are making every effort to finalize agreements with these businesses in order to create sustainable high-paying jobs and continue to transform our regional economy.”

“As far as the processing plant, we are in support of any legitimate business that helps our ag sector and creates added value industries. Though there is not enough room for the project within the current plan for the Industrial Park, we will work to help explore sites for the processing plant in the region. The size of the plant, the impact on the region, and its sustainability have to be considered in the evaluation process.”

Darrell Shoemaker, Communications Coordinator for the City of Rapid City also released a statement Tuesday afternoon stating:

“City officials (i.e. the Mayor’s Office, Community Development Department, Public Works Department) have not been formally approached by officials with Western Legacy Development Company about their proposal. No permits, plans, applications or requests for information have been filed or submitted with the City.  There have been no inquiries with the City by company officials seeking information on the detailed processes and procedures that would need to be addressed and followed. ”

“Until a specific location is identified and a complete operational plan is submitted, City officials cannot identify the processes that will be required for the project.  Without such information, the City is unable to comment on specific or even approximate procedures, time lines and requirements.  We cannot speculate based on hypotheticals or hearsay. It would be premature for City officials to comment on general time lines or general application and permit processes and procedures without company officials providing to City officials the specific and detailed information on their proposal.”

“We invite project officials to contact us with their specific proposal and to inquire with questions or issues involving the City and their proposed project.”

Shoemaker said that once Western Legacy Development Corporation submits a proposal, the process through the city could take months depending on what kind of zoning requirements and permits would be needed, and whether there are questions from the public, City Council, or the Planning Commission.

If the proposed facility’s location is outside of Rapid City limits, Pennington County will also have requirements.

“There’s a process and procedure in which this is done. It’s a good thing to have the public meetings, but nothing is a done deal until it’s approved either through the city or the county. So to say it’s a done deal — it’s not a done deal. There’s a long process to get through this to make sure things are done right. And that process takes a lot longer than just a few meetings,” said Deb Hadcock, Pennington County Commissioner for District 3.  “These guys can’t just push this through and you guys not get your questions answered. And by the time they’re done with this, the water, the sewer, and everything, that will be detailed so you guys will know that as a city, as a county and the surrounding state.”

“The farmers, ranchers and the people that need this in order to make it economically feasible, will shut them down by themselves if they don’t believe in it. So bottom line is, let’s see what this does. Let’s see what they do. Let’s see if they follow through with what they say. If they don’t, they’ll be shut down by themselves either through city, county, or the citizens,” she said.

Hadcock said she felt the meeting was good for community members to express their fears, anxieties, and questions but that there will be many more questions moving forward once a site is finalized.

Elevate Rapid City has also made repeated requests for information from the Western Legacy Development Corporation. Shiloh Francis, Elevate’s Communications and Marketing Director,  said they have also have not received any information from Kingsbury.

“We’re still left with a lot of unanswered questions and concerns. We are trying to understand things like the business plan, capital structure, market penetration, and everything. But we haven’t received any sort of documentation. We have concerns about whether it’s feasible in this area, including the employment, the number of cattle headed, the infrastructure, such as water. We just we have a lot of concerns and questions,” she said. “I do know at one point they’ve mentioned that there is going to be an environmental study and those usually take months, you know, three to six months to three years to get done. So I guess we’re interested to know where they’re at in the environmental assessment for a facility like that. Again, just another question that we have that we don’t think they got an answer has been made.”

“A lot of the statements that are being made publicly don’t necessarily line up with the facts or are a bit self-contradictory,” said Francis.

Categories: ConnectCenter1-Ag, Local News, South Dakota News