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Poultry slaughterhouse permit pulled

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

A Mt. Jackson man pulled his plans to build a poultry slaughterhouse near town that sparked protest by neighbors.

The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors had planned to take action Tuesday on a special-use permit requested by Edwin and Dana Wilson to operate a slaughterhouse at 4154 Conicville Road. Wilson has withdrawn the application for the permit, according to Zoning Subdivision Administrator Joyce Fadeley.

"They did, in effect, pull the application, saying 'no, I don't want to go forward,'" Fadeley said Friday. "If they do choose to go forward sometime in the future they have to go through the whole process again."

The Wilsons plan to construct a building to house and grow chickens for which the county requires a zoning permit, according to Fadeley. Under a farming exemption the Wilsons do not need a building permit to construct the facility, Fadeley said.

Without the special-use permit, different exemptions under state regulations allow the Wilsons to slaughter up to 1,000 or 20,000 birds per year.

"He's still under that same exemption so he can continue to do whatever he was doing before he came to the county to ask for that poultry slaughterhouse," Fadeley said.

The special-use permit would have given the county and other outside agencies increased regulatory power over the slaughterhouse operation as Wilson had proposed.

"To take this facility to this level gives us an opportunity to work alongside the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia Department of Agriculture [and Consumer Services], the U.S. [Department of Agriculture to make sure the facility has all the components required," Fadeley said. "This just kind of opened the door for us to be involved.

"It's a state law and I don't believe that we really have any authority," Fadeley added.

Agricultural zoning regulations in the county require a special-use permit for a slaughterhouse. However, the state regulations for the slaughtering of poultry, which "trump" local rules, allow certain exemptions depending on the number of animals killed and processed, Fadeley explained. The official noted that the county's authority remains limited. Fadeley added that the county ordinance does not differentiate between a poultry abattoir and the traditional slaughterhouse because the state always had treated the two separately.

The Planning Commission, after a joint public hearing with the board on June 26, recommended supervisors deny the request. Neighbors of the site spoke against the request and voiced concerns about the potential smell, traffic problems and environmental impact of the slaughterhouse use. The board postponed action on the permit at the request of Supervisor Steven A. Baker to give him time to gather information on the matter.

At the meeting with concerned residents Baker tried to explain that Wilson's plans called for a small operation within a 600-square-foot structure. By granting the special-use permit various local, state and federal agencies would have had regulatory power and oversight of Wilson's operations. Edwin and Dana Wilson did not attend the meeting. Some time after the meeting the Wilsons withdrew the application, Fadeley said.

Some residents asked Fadeley whether the Wilsons had obtained necessary permits for other structures built on the property. The county issued the Wilsons a zoning permit for a barn on the site five or six years ago, Fadeley said. When the Wilsons go back to the county to apply for the zoning permit for the new chicken house they plan to build, Fadeley said she told them to seek the same document for each of the several smaller structures on the site, including a lean-to used as shelter for pigs. Fadeley approved zoning permits for all existing buildings and the farm structure the Wilson plan to build for chickens, she said.

Fadeley noted that Wilson had not installed footings for the proposed slaughterhouse, as alleged, but rather only dug holes for the building.

As Fadeley recalled, Wilson came to her office seeking to build a poultry-growing operation. The county requires a zoning permit to house more than 200 birds though regulations do not limit the number of birds a person can grow.

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