By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- A Mt. Jackson man's efforts to build a chicken slaughterhouse met opposition from neighbors and the Shenandoah County Planning Commission on Thursday.
The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the Board of Supervisors deny a special-use permit requested by Edwin and Dana Wilson who want to build and operate a 600-square-foot slaughterhouse at 4154 Conicville Road near Pleasant View Road. The site for the proposed slaughterhouse lies adjacent to several homes and Pleasant View Church.
"I just don't like the idea," Charles Coleman said at the public hearing on the permit request, who expressed concern about keeping the animals corralled and the environmental impacts of the facility.
Planning commission members echoed some concerns raised by speakers, including whether the county could limit the number of chickens the slaughterhouse could process at any given time, and keep the owner from expanding the plant in the future.
Edwin Wilson explained to the commission the slaughterhouse would process up to 200 free-range chickens per month. The process includes plucking, eviscerating, cooling and packaging the poultry. Customers could buy processed, packaged poultry from the facility, Wilson said. The property already features farming operations and Wilson said he would feed fowl with corn grown on his farm.
Residents who live near the site expressed concern to commissioners about the potential impacts of the operation on the watershed, including Painter's Run which flows through the Wilson property. Speakers raised concerns about whether the operators of the facility would keep the chickens contained and some people alleged that turkeys have roamed off the property and into the road on occasions. Neighbors also expressed concern over the odor that could eminate from the facility.
Jill W. Griffin, who operates Inanna Kennels in Mt. Jackson, told the commission she once drove on the road adjacent to the Wilson farm and nearly struck a "stream" of guinea hens that had walked from the property into her path. Griffin also questioned the use of water by the facility and then the impact of the effluent released by the slaughterhouse.
Katherine Foltz, of 234 Bauserman Lane, adjacent to the proposed site, also expressed concern for the stream.
Wilson responded to questions about whether he had the finances to start up and run a slaughterhouse facility, saying he had the money to do so.
As Zoning Subdivision Administrator Joyce Fadeley explained a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector would need to remain on site for any slaughtering operation. A question arose over the cost to the operator for the inspector's services and Wilson told the panel the agency charges only for the slaughtering of 400 chickens or more.
The Virginia Department of Transportation has required the property owner to create a new entrance to the facility south of the current ingress to remedy an issue of sight distance, according to Fadely. In reference to the proposed facility's distance to Painter's Run, the site lies approximately 300 feet from the stream or 100 feet from the 200-foot buffer.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality rejected the option to allow the facility to collect the blood from the carcasses and store it in a 1,000 gallon tank, Wilson told the panel. Instead, the agency has recommended the process call for collecting the blood and composting the liquid with the offal.
At least one planning commission member questioned what state or federal agencies would monitor the slaughterhouse operation for its impact on the environment, the nearby stream, the creation of odor and making sure the animals did not run free from the facility.
After the public hearing, commission member Mike Davis suggested that, given some concerns about the proposal and lingering questions about agency oversight, the panel table the permit request. But before he could make a formal motion, member Leon Smith reiterated concerns posed by speakers and then made a motion to recommend supervisors deny the permit request.
"I don't see the need for a lot of small chicken slaughterhouses," Smith said, adding that larger, combined operations would be easier to monitor.
After a second from member Hilda Vann the panel voted unanimously on Smith's motion.