By Alex Bridges -- email@example.com
MT. JACKSON -- Opponents of a proposed poultry slaughterhouse near Mt. Jackson may want Shenandoah County to approve the controversial permit request, officials said Wednesday.
Shenandoah County officials told 30 people gathered at Pleasant View Church of the Brethren that their neighbor can slaughter a certain number of birds without any permits or oversight by regulatory agencies. By granting the request for a special-use permit the proprietor would fall under scrutiny by local, state and federal agricultural and environmental regulatory agencies, according to county officials.
"All I can do is say he's met the criteria of the zoning ordinance and that's the end of my authority," Joyce Fadeley, the county zoning subdivision administrator, advised the audience.
One man, who asked to remain anonymous, said after the meeting: "Either way, we're screwed."
Edwin Wilson, who was not at the meeting, has said he wants to process 200 chickens per month in a 600-square-foot slaughterhouse which he would build on his property at 4154 Conicville Road. Such an amount would require that an inspector with the U.S. Department of Agriculture remain on site at all times slaughtering and processing takes place, officials have said. Several people questioned whether even the agencies could keep Wilson from violating regulations. Officials didn't completely answer that question or "who's gonna count the chickens" as several people asked.
Members of the church and neighbors oppose the request, saying the operation could harm the environment, the water supply, produce a bad smell from the process and create a nuisance with stray birds.
District 2 Supervisor Steven A. Baker led the discussion and tried several times to assure the audience Wilson's operation would not come close to that of an industrial slaughterhouse. Baker explained that Wilson would need more land, a wastewater treatment facility on site and likely an industrial-depth well. At least one person questioned whether such an operation as proposed by Wilson should be allowed to tap into the fragile aquifer.
Baker, when asked which side he fell on the issue, told the audience he had not yet decided on a position for or against.
Bobby Clark, extension agent with the Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension, explained the agricultural regulations and Vito Gentile spoke to the audience about the county's comprehensive plan and its role in the issue.
"It is my understanding that he can process 999 birds [per year] without any direct inspection," Clark said. "I guess he can go in his kitchen and process 'em and then put 'em in a cooler and sell 'em."
However, without a USDA stamp of approval, Wilson cannot sell the chicken meat outside Virginia, Clark explained.
Fadeley said Wilson likely would want to obtain the USDA stamp in order to expand how and where he sells the products.
The comprehensive plan seeks to promote the locality's agriculture industry and even encourages others to do the same, according to Gentile. The plan also notes the need to preserve the county's natural beauty.
Fadeley, at the request of several people in the audience, said she would look into whether Wilson had obtained the necessary permits to build the structures already on the site. Some people noted that Wilson already had built footings for the proposed slaughterhouse without a permit.