Sister Lake residents take action to protest proposed industrial chicken facility

Published 4:07 pm Wednesday, June 28, 2023

SILVER CREEK TOWNSHIP — Plans for an industrial chicken facility in the resort community of Sister Lakes have galvanized concerned residents to take action to stop four large chicken warehouses and two manure storage buildings to confine 45,000 laying hens from being built.

Residents feel they were blindsided by Joel Layman of Silver Creek Poultry, LLC, who purchased the property.

“Joel Layman never reached out to us and didn’t consider the impact it would have on its neighbors,” said Natasha Stewart, who lives across the street from the site.

Sister Lakes resident Dale Young added, “the smell that comes from this type of agriculture is highly concerning to me from a property value perspective, from a quality of life perspective, so we are not happy at all about it”.

Protect Sister Lakes was formed to stop construction of the industrial livestock facility which raises animals in high concentrations and produces significant waste. Residents have been calling their government officials and sent an official appeal to the Michigan Department of Agricultural and Rural Development. Only residents living within a half mile of the proposed facility (51501 Bakeman Road, Dowagiac, Cass County) are eligible to appeal though PSL members believe the entire Sister Lakes area will be affected if it were to be constructed.

Forty-two residents have filed a Request to Appeal with MDARD. Family homes, a drive-in theater, a wedding reception facility, two adult care facilities and a church all sit nearby the proposed site. MDARD is required to act on the Request to Appeal by early July. If approved, the appeal process will begin. 

The community joined together to create a website, Facebook page, and purchased 200 yard signs saying, “Family farms not factory farms in our community.”

“We’re all for farmers,” said Candy Young. “We know all the farmers in the area, we love them. This is a whole different thing. This should not be done. This should not be done to a community.”

Residents have expressed concern for potential problems such as air, noise, ground, and water pollution. The Sister Lakes community has ten spring fed, clean inland lakes in a five-mile radius that provide residents and tourists with summer outdoor activities. The community also depends on well water for drinking, and there is concern about groundwater contamination. Others voiced concerns about loud trucks on their small roads and decreased property values.

“Michigan’s impaired waterways map speaks for itself, showing significant damage to drinking water and recreational waters all across the state,” said Elisabeth Holmes, Senior Counsel with the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project. “Protect Sister Lakes is admirably standing up to protect the lifeline of their community from the impacts of this industrial egg layer operation.”