Last week, the Cape Charles Mirror published an exchange between Supervisor Larry LeMond and County staff member Melissa Kellam. The exchange appeared to be an effort to show that there were no plans for intensive poultry farming operations, and that no one from Tyson or Perdue had contacted them regarding bringing said poultry operations to Northampton:
“Mr. Chairman, while we are on that subject, I wish that word could get out that there are only nine parcels. I’m still getting emails stating, I understand, there’s 50 chicken houses coming to Northampton County from Tysons and Perdue. I got a phone call Sunday from a constituent wanting to know what’s going on, and nobody’s approached me,” LeMond said.
“Nobody has come into our office,” Ms. Kellam said.
“No farmers knocking at my door to put chicken houses on their property. So I wish that word would get out and people not put these falsehoods out there.” LeMond said.
Kellam added, “Nobody has been to our office to submit plans.”
However, an email obtained by the Cape Charles Mirror from a former County employee, seemed to contradict this:
I personally took the call from a Tyson representative and transferred it to McSwain.They have people in the county interested in having chicken farms and they were calling to determine if it’s possible to do. Charles spoke the them for an hour. He said it was a very beneficial call and thanked me for sending it to him. Charles was very pleased that the new zoning would allow Tyson to come in and establish the farms they want, although no specific number of chickens houses or farms were mentioned to me.
This report by Wesley Edwards of the Shore Daily News confirms the information contained in the former employee’s email:
At Wednesday night’s Accomack County Board of Supervisors’ meeting County Administrator Dr. Steve Miner referred the supervisors to a report from the Planning Department that outlines the rapid growth and new applications for poultry houses…21 new houses were built in Accomack County in 2014 and six have been approved in 2015 with 69 more pending.
According to the report Tysons reported to the Accomack County staff that they hope to have 50 to 100 new houses built throughout Accomack County in 2015, and that they are looking into places to locate in Northampton County.
If Tyson is actively looking for locations in Northampton County to set up shop, it would seem more probable than not that they have been discussing this with somebody in the County government. Whether or not the Board of Supervisors is attempting to avoid scrutiny by playing a semantic shell game, the appearance is that there is an attempt to mislead the public about the real possibility that intensive poultry farming operations, and the litter disposal issues that come along with it, may indeed be coming to Northampton.
Given that lot coverage limits in the proposed zoning ordinance may be removed , it could be a ‘Katy bar the door’ scenario if the only thing standing in the way of intensive farming is the “Chesapeake Bay Act”.
Whatever the case, the citizens of Northampton deserve a full, transparent accounting of just what has been discussed with Tyson, and what the County’s real intentions are regarding the future of intensive farming on the lower Eastern Shore.