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Commission OKs Fort Worth rodent business expansion

FORT WORTH -- A south Fort Worth business that breeds more than a half-million rats and mice a year was given approval Wednesday by the city’s zoning commission to expand its operation.

The Big Cheese Rodent Factory, which has operated since 1999 at 2527 W. Dickson St., plans to spend more than $18,000 to reduce odors from the factory in response to complaints.

Nearby residents and business owners complained to city officials because of nauseating smells emanating from the business, causing Fort Worth environmental management officials to inspect the site.

"We have been good neighbors and we will strive to be better neighbors no matter where we end up in this process," said Lynda Hanna, co-owner of the factory.

The complaints of odors wafting through nearby properties caused zoning commissioners in May to delay Hanna's request to expand the business and to change the zoning for the property

The factory property is currently zoned to operate offices and a warehouse. If City Council approves the zoning commission’s recommendations, the property would be appropriately zoned for the factory's breeding operations and keep it on city officials’ radar including requirements that bad smells be contained.

T.C. Michael, a Fort Worth environmental management supervisor, said the factory has submitted a plan to eliminate the odor issues and that the owners are making a "conscientious effort to contain the odor."

The factory's owner hired Plano-based Air Purification Systems Inc. to install ozone machines to combat the ammonia in the air produced by the rat and mice urine.

Posie Hundly, owner of the air quality company, said the technique is very effective and the goal is to reduce the ammonia levels to 50 parts per million, which will leave only a “whiff” of the rodent scent – meaning the smells could blow by nearby properties but would not be a constant odor.

Ellen Shaw, who owns a self-storage business to the southwest of the rodent factory, said the odors have subsided but she still opposed the zoning request.

Shaw said the factory’s original application requested occupancy to operate offices and a warehouse, but did not indicate a breeding business would be included.

"We feel like they have been operating illegally there for four years," she said.

The factory’s owner said she did not intentionally mislead the city.

Zoning commissioner William Greenhill agreed and suggested that the new zoning classification of heavy industrial would be appropriate for the business.