RiNo neighbors are raising a stink about factory smells in their ’hood

See also: "Smells like dead animals" and other complaints made about a pet treat factory in RiNo

RiNo neighbors are raising a stink about factory smells in their ’hood

The air smelled like a dead body, the woman said. And she isn't the only one who thinks so. Over the past eight years, the city has received no fewer than 150 complaints about a fetid odor emanating from a brick factory at 33rd and Walnut streets that makes dog chews and pet treats.

August 13, 2002: Caller reports "bad odor in the air. Smells like dead animals or rotten meat."

April 18, 2005: "Caller left message regarding terrible odor. Said he was 'throwing up.'"

May 24, 2010: Caller reports an "odor that smells like a dead rodent. A lot of dead rodents."

June 14, 2011: "Yet again, I report...nauseating odors in my community," a neighbor wrote in an e-mail. "For years, residents have complained to no avail. The RiNo community feels defeated."

Defeated, but not ready to give up. Despite their frustration, the residents of River North — a gritty industrial area with a cute nickname (RiNo) that's also home to artists and an increasing number of young professionals with barbecue grills and chocolate labs — kept complaining.

For more grievances, read "'Smells like dead animals' and other complaints made about a pet treat factory in RiNo."

In April this year, the city took action. It issued an odor citation to Kasel Associates Industries, known to its neighbors as the "Pig Ear Factory" because it uses pig ears in its products. The state and city had attempted the same in 2005, but Kasel fought it and won. This time, the inspectors had a new weapon: a clause added to Denver's air-pollution ordinance that allows a citation to be issued if the Department of Environmental Health receives five smell complaints from different households within a twelve-hour period and "verifies the source of the odor."

That's what happened in RiNo on March 19. After confirming the complaints, the city told Kasel Associates Industries that the smell of cooking pet treats was going to cost it $500.

But the company's owner, Ray Kasel, wasn't about to roll over. He hired a lawyer and appealed the citation, arguing that the complaining neighbors were untrustworthy and that the wind direction on the allegedly smelly day made it impossible for the odor to be coming from his factory. The hearing officer assigned to the case didn't buy it. Neither did the city's Board of Environmental Health, which upheld the citation.

Now Kasel is suing the city in federal court for conspiring against him, harassing him and violating his constitutional property rights. Also named in the lawsuit are three employees of the Department of Environmental Health, including manager and former city councilman Doug Linkhart; three complaining neighbors; city councilwoman Judy Montero; and Montero's former assistant, Stephanie Syner, whom Kasel accuses of drumming up the complaints.

Their actions, Kasel asserts in the suit, "constituted an unlawful conspiracy to defame [his] reputation" and led to "annoyance, inconvenience, stigma...[and] litigation costs."

But the neighbors insist it's Kasel who really stinks.

"We know we live in an industrial area and there is some give-and-take," says Jennifer Kramer-Wine, who owns a condo in RiNo across the street from the factory. "This was over the top. Upton Sinclair kept popping in my head. Like, 'What were they doing?'"


Kasel Associates Industries was founded in 1986, as Kasel Mechanical Service, "to serve the refrigeration and boiler needs of the local food processing industry," according to its website. It moved to 33rd and Walnut three years later. Over time, the company diversified and changed names. In addition to making pet treats that are sold at Costco, Sam's Club, Petco and Target, Kasel Associates manufactures meat slicers.

Back then, the area — two blocks from the railroad tracks and less than half a mile from the South Platte River — was a sea of old industry; zoning maps show a mostly homogenous neighborhood set aside for "heavy industrial." Today it's still home to a sausage factory, a company that cleans septic tanks, and a corned beef processor.

Artist studios are allowed in industrial areas, and RiNo boosters say there were several at the time that Kasel Associates moved in. But new residential dwellings are forbidden. In 1985, however, developer Jerry Glick and his business partner won a zoning change for a project they dubbed Silver Square, at 33rd and Blake streets, across the street from where Kasel is now located. It involved transforming a brick complex once used to manufacture sugar-refining machinery into lofts where artists could live and work.

"It was a junkyard at the time we bought it — literally a junkyard, with junkyard dogs," Glick says. He'd admired live-work lofts in other cities and realized there were none in Denver. Unsure if the idea would take off, Glick and his business partner started slow, building just a dozen lofts. "We didn't know if anybody would live in the neighborhood," he says now.

It turned out they would. Rex and Sharon Brown, an educator and a painter, respectively, were among the first of a new wave of creatives to make their homes in RiNo, an area defined by I-70 to the north, I-25 to the west, Park Avenue West to the south and Lawrence Street to the east, and bifurcated by the river and the train tracks. In 1991, the Browns bought a building in the middle of Silver Square where woodworkers used to make patterns for iron and steel machine parts. It was boarded up, full of feral cats and without plumbing or electricity. Over several months, they converted it into a stunning residence, studio and gallery that they named Pattern Shop Studio. "Artists are not afraid of raw spaces," Sharon Brown once said. Or cheap ones.

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I am really angered by this article! A bunch of yuppy hipsters move into a "hip" new development and suddenly think they run the place! 

My one objection that I'm not too incensed over to put into words is these reports of the smell of human decomp. Really? I remain unconvinced these new residents have ever in their lives smelled a rotting body. Nevertheless, look around you! Do you not see the nearby neighborhoods? If you REALLY think that smell is a corpse, IT PROBABLY IS! I used to frequent an artist gathering at 35th and Walnut, only to stand at 36th and Downing later in the evening, awaiting the bus. At just the one bus stop, I have been both propositioned and threatened, and have seen drug deals going down. Imagine what could be happening at bus stops and back alleys across the neighborhood! Want to be an artist? Before you can portray life the way you can imagine it, you need to see it for what it is. You can give your little corner of town all the cutesy names you want, it doesn't change that it is a hard part of town, meant for industry, not young suburbanites.

I absolutely agree with Rick Corage: "People who have the money to live somewhere nice should live somewhere nice." (emphasis mine). Buying a loft gives you control of the loft, not control of the neighbors who were in their proper place before you edged in.


Gee you move into an area zoned nearby as heavy industrial what do you expect it to smell like roses.  This is the same reason why the industrial area of commerce city stinks its an industrial area.  Deal with it or move on out & go find a bed of roses to move into.

patricia.calhoun moderator topcommentereditor

I'd love to publish some of these comments in our print edition -- ideally with the author's full name. If that's okay, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com. And if you'd rather submit a different letter, that's fine, too!


I live nearby, in Globeville.  Our neighborhood is full of houses and is definitely zoned residential.  The smell is pretty awful there too.  I've always wondered where it came from.  


This is the reason that originally the zoning did not allow residential. The factory employs people in the area and zoning in other areas should avoid and restrict development like this to prevent further impacts like this one. Maybe they should move on and out. In addition, communities have been against developments for this very reason. They move into a community to push out what is already there,


As the Silver-Square dwellers set up their Christmas gear
Ray Kassel’s across the street, cooking a batch of fresh ear

Christmas is near and gifts require imagination
This year’s been rough, cause the lofts smell like bacon

Denver has an appetite and hungry for some tax
The developments approved, oh-yes…fresh green-backs

Historic factories built into lofts like new
With rail-yards nearby, what an impressive view

With the upcoming lawsuit and all that worry
The evidence smells good but not to the jury

And what about that clever gift fit for a friend?
Perhaps a wind sock located way downwind

A little something special for those RiNo tweeters
The hottest new gadget this year, “scentometers”

With the notion of Santa, and all his reindeer
Undergo a whiff, of flame broiled ear?


The Purina Plant is a welcome smell compared to the pig ear plant. My first experience with the stench I had considered calling 911 and reporting a dead body in one of the empty ruins of the 'hood. Needless to say it's affected where I patron. I can no longer go to the Walnut Room on days when the stench is in full bloom, it literally comes in through the air filters. I have a feeling the Populist will be the next victim.

As for the comments saying it's the fault of the people who moved there should realize that these areas of Denver are no longer 'out of town' just as LoDo is no longer a downtown ghetto, Brighton Ave is no longer home to a landfill and Stapleton is no longer far enough away to justify an airport that close to the city. Residential and commercial space in that area has been approved and some of it has been there before the pig ears began to roast. There's something to be said about being a good neighbor. Kasel should consider spending less money on lawsuits and more money on retrofitting his filtration system.


Instead of reading the entire 6-page article, let me sum it up for
everyone: douchebags moved into an industrial neighborhood, complained
about it's side effects from being an industrial neighborhood, and
doucebag industry owner is vindictive.


This is so reminiscent of when all those people moved out to the new housing developments by the airport and then bitched about the noise.

jenna-furrr topcommenter

I am thrilled to discover that scentometers exist. If they were available to the general public, I would purchase one.


I've never smelled a stench in that neighborhood!


I was on site for two and a half hours during business and didn't smell one thing. 


@tkmsnYou are grossly misinformed.  Silver Square residents bought for cheap years ago and before Kasel Factory was making "dog treats" that have been found to be contaminated with salmonella (google that). They were manufacturing non-odor producing industry when residents moved in then switched manufacturing later on. Doubtful you would enjoy a factory spewing out vile odors of dead animal parts after you had already been living in your residence.


@patricia.calhoun just posted a comment - still feeling pretty turbulent about the whole mess! so it may not be much good, but if you want to use it in print, go ahead. I'd rather not use my full name, but you can print it as T. Mason.



The odors in Globeville used smell much worse, sickening really, with meat packing, tanneries and (gag) rendering plants. The meat packing industry began in 1882 and was viewed as an asset, attracting people to the area for the jobs and affordable housing. By the 1980s, most of those industries had disappeared with consolidation in meat packing and standards of what was acceptable from industry had changed as well. Although there is a city ordinance that deals with odors (in 1970 it was Denver City Ordinance No 760.12) there doesn't seem to be an effective way to measure odors. Decisions about enforcement depend on the kind of businesses already in the area.


@jenna-furrr Can't WW get one for you?  I am sure the cost could be justified as a business expense.  Just think of all the places you could use it.


@RiNoRes @tkmsn So... I googled salmonella. I'm not really sure what you were hoping to prove to me by having me do so. As my original post is concerned mainly with my doubt that the residents of the RiNo neighborhood know what a corpse smells like, I had supposed you hoped there was an article in existence to link the smell of salmonella poisoning to the smell of human decomp. If there is such an article in existence, I didn't find it. Go ahead. Call me misinformed.

I admit... I'm not all up-to-date on industry law. It may well be that manufacturing industries are legally prohibited from making any changes in manufacturing procedures when the consequence will be devastating to the highly-attuned senses of nearby entitled-to-the-world-on-a-silver-platter residents. It seems unlikely, but I do hear rumor of unlikely laws all the time.

Doubtful you know me at all, RiNoRes. Doubtful you know that I am all-too-familiar with general industry and the unpleasantness surrounding it. Perhaps you are right, though. Perhaps I wouldn't enjoy a factory spewing out vile odors of dead animal parts. Or, perhaps I would understand that buying "for cheap" always comes with hidden caveats, and that buying near an industrial zone is not bound to produce pleasant results. This all seems rather circumspect, but here's what I know:    Had I bought "for cheap" anywhere in town and been disappointed in the consequences, I would take responsibility for my poor-decision making and leave; I would not TAKE IT PERSONALLY and BULLY THE LOCAL BUSINESSES.