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Jefferson Co. residents fight poultry processing

August 27, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County residents raised concerns Thursday about new zoning regulations that will allow meat processing facilities, including those for poultry.

Vicki Faulkner of Harpers Ferry said the Jefferson County Planning Commission never mentioned the possibility of poultry processing when it was forming the regulations. But the plan to allow poultry processing was included in the proposed zoning regulations that were delivered to the Jefferson County Commissioners Thursday, Faulkner said.

Faulkner told the commissioners that waste from chicken processing facilities is different from that at beef and pork operations because it can affect groundwater faster.

Several people who expressed their concerns to the commissioners said they also are worried about large commercial farming operations, or "factory farms."

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The number of poultry farms has doubled in the state in the last five years, and there have been pollution problems along the Potomac River where farms are located, said Janet Stone of Bolivar.

"It's very serious in this state. Have you really looked into the implications of these things?" Stone asked the commissioners.

Jefferson County Planning Director Paul Raco said he does not believe the new regulations would attract commercial farming operations to the county because the proposed laws do not allow slaughtering.

Any livestock raised in the county would have to be taken out of the county for slaughtering, then returned for processing, which involves butchering and packaging of meat.

Paul Burke of Shepherdstown said the language prohibiting slaughtering does not guarantee there will be no commercial farming operations in the county. Factory farms could ask for a variance from the zoning regulations to set up slaughtering facilities, Burke said.

Such farms would strong arguments for variances - that the variances would be good for business and would reduce truck traffic that could clog roads heading to and from slaughtering facilities, Burke said.

Burke suggested placing a limit on the amount of meat that can be processed at individual facilities.

"Do not pass this amendment. It's not well thought through," Dorothy McGhee told the commissioners.

Agriculture officials have appeared before the Planning Commission at previous meetings to emphasize that allowing local farmers to do their own meat processing is critical to help them become more diversified.

Commissioner Edgar Ridgeway said everyone at Thursday's meeting wants a good future for Jefferson County. But everyone has different ideas about how that should be achieved, he said.

"Really, I'm confused," Ridgeway said.

Commission President James K. Ruland said making a decision on the proposed zoning regulations will be "a difficult path to walk," but it will be easier to reach a conclusion with all the input that is being given.

"I think this type of discourse is healthy," said Ruland.

Any zoning changes must be approved by the commissioners.

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