Let there be no doubt that Stanislaus County officials are biased in favor of agriculture and arguably they should be, given that it is the backbone of our economy. But they still need to demand that farmers and agribusiness operations meet safety and health standards.
A Turlock grower thumbed his nose at the county, developing a big warehouse and melon and sweet potato sorting facility at Fulkerth Road and Washington Avenue without the needed permits and approvals. "I've complicated things to a certain extent," Dan Avila acknowledged last week before the Board of Supervisors. What an understatement. County planning staff had been working with him for more than two years, but Avila basically ignored and defied the requirements until staff recommended the county "abate" as in take down his unlawful activities. Supervisor Jim DeMartini tried to characterize this as an example of government driving business away with its unreasonable rules. Supervisor Terry Withrow had a more accurate assessment when he told the farmer his problem was "a self-inflicted wound."
Avila's operation is not in a remote location. Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden had urged the county to hold Avila accountable for what he has done, saying his operations threaten to disrupt business activity in the industrial park across the street.