By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- A poultry rendering plant's request to process more material sparked protest from Shenandoah County residents Thursday night.
However, the Shenandoah County Planning Commission, after hearing from the public, voted unanimously to recommend the Board of Supervisors approve the request.
Mountain View Rendering Co. LLC sought to amend its existing special-use permit to allow the facility at 173 Rocco Road, Edinburg, to take in additional animal products from George's Chicken LLC in Harrisonburg. The plant lies on 6.6 acres of land at Rocco and Stoneburner roads, near the George's plant at 1992 Senedo Road. The county approved the original permit in 1986, which limited the facility to material from certain sites.
The commission held a public hearing with supervisors present on the request and heard from residents who expressed concerns about the impact of the expansion on the environment, safety of the roads near the plant and the smell they say the facility currently generates.
Several commissioners lauded the facility's efforts. Member Hilda C. Vann commented that she thought it better such a facility process material rather than the products end up in a landfill. Others commented that odors often occur with agriculture.
But the people who spoke did not see the facility as a good neighbor.
Joseph Bosco, of 1214 Back Road, recalled he and 100 other residents stood in opposition to the original permit when it came before the county.
"Our fears have been realized," Bosco said. "The smells are horrendous."
Chairman Gary Lantz cited a letter from The Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River which referred to alleged violations of its Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. However, according to Woodstock attorney Jay Neal the rendering plant has had a clean record with the DEQ.
Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli asked the Mountain View general manager Bob Forry if George's made a business decision to seek to process the material at the plant. Forry noted he couldn't speak for George's but indicated that Mountain View does compete with other rendering facilities in the area.
"Where is the smell coming from?" commissioner Rick Miller asked of the general manager noting the comments from speakers about the odor.
"A lot of that smell's coming from George's," the general manager replied.
Outside the meeting room after the hearing several of the concerned residents spoke with Forry and other representatives of Mountain View who defended the facility.
Zoning Subdivision Administrator Joyce Fadeley gave a presentation on the request and noted that she and some commissioners took a tour inside and outside the facility.
"We stood outside and there was no odor," Fadeley said. "I was really shocked because I expected something different."
The facility's use of negative pressure -- sucking air in -- keeps odor from escaping, Fadeley explained. The group did smell an odor outside which seemed to come from the area of George's Chicken facility, she said.
Neal represented Mountain View and explained the rendering process and the desire by Mountain View to take added material from the George's facility in Harrisonburg. Neal noted that Mountain View is owned in part by George's which has expressed a desire to render its own products. Neal also addressed the environmental issue and told the commission the facility operates under a strict permit.
"As near as I can tell this will not have an impact on anyone," Neal told the commission, adding later, "It truly is an extremely regulated situation."
While the Virginia Department of Transportation gave a statement to the county planning department that the increase of four to six trucks would not impact nearby roads, the speakers expressed concern the added vehicles would make Va. 42 more hazardous.
Mountain View employs 26 workers and operates 24 hours a day, according to Neal and company representatives. Neal and others noted the facility doesn't reach its permitted capacity and still would not come close to that mark with the added material.