It’s been a long nine months for Rob Hilarides. That’s how long he has waited to get a decision from the Tulare County Planning Commission on his request for a permit to build a 9,100-cow dairy and cheese-making facility. On Wednesday he finally received tentative approval by a vote of 6 to 0. One commission member refrained from voting due to a conflict of interest.

Many are celebrating the long-awaited first decision on a dairy permit by the planning board. However, many others are frustrated as they see this as just another large dairy that will pollute the air they breathe and lower property values.

Hilarides originally applied for the permit to build the dairy just west of Lindsay, Calif., in November 2001. But, a long public comment period led to many delays to allow commissioners to address the concerns brought forward.

The commission granted tentative approval as it could not take final action on the permit, because to do so it must write all the reasons for approval. The next scheduled meeting for the commission is Aug. 14.

Currently there are 82 other dairy permits waiting in the wings for action by the commission.

For the past three years, Tulare County has not taken any action on dairy permits. Everything has been on hold because, first the county was sued by the state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, and then by the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment. Both lawsuits cited concerns that the environmental impacts of large dairies were not being adequately addressed, reported before permitting.

Although members of the Dairy Industries Alliance, a group of industries that joined together to support the dairy industry and help get the dairy industry building again in Tulare County, sees this decision as a vote of support, they know the battle is not over.

In fact, Alan Bettencourt a neighbor to the proposed dairy, was disappointed in the decision. He says neighbor concerns, that the dairy will bring more flies and odor to the area, and affect groundwater were not addressed by the commission. He plans to appeal the planning commission’s decision to the county supervisors.

Tulare Advance-Register