Cape Charles Mirror Report
by Wayne Creed
On Wednesday Eastern Shorekeeper held a ‘conversation’ about the poultry industry at ESCC in Melfa. Although the majority were on hand to question the legimacy of the industry, Bill Satterfield of the Delmarva Poultry Industry was on hand to make the opposite case. The bottom line is that Perdue and Tyson account for upwards of over $80 million in payroll and millions in property taxes. With the stakes that high, the idea that intensive farming may coming to Northampton, sooner rather than later, is one that has to be reckoned with.
On Tuesday at the County Board of Supervisors meeting, the public was once again on hand to voice concerns about the very real possibility of poultry operations coming to our county. RH Meyers read a letter from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to Somerset County in Maryland, pointing out numerous issues and problems intensive farming poses for the Eastern Shore. Franktown resident Janet Sturgis referenced Meyers’ letters and leveraged her own research. Sturgis also added that the setbacks for poultry houses should be 1,000 feet from property lines and 1,500 feet from local residence, churches, commercial buildings, or schools.
Supervisor Hogg was the first to weigh in, “We’ve heard a lot about poultry houses this evening and based on a conversation earlier it appears that we, according to the County Attorney, we had no way to regulate or any kind of special use permit as far as addressing the individual needs of a person that might have poultry issue and the like, Are we all in agreement that is how it is in the County, and coming from our attorney that we don’t have any ability to regulate because of the way the code is written.”
“I believe the issue is that we cannot require a special use permit but it certainly can be regulated” County Attorney Leathebury, “Through setbacks and…”
“Through setbacks and things like that but there was no potential for a special use permit; so because of the fact, what I’m looking at, there is no provision for intensive animal operations at this time through our existing ordinance, what I would like to suggest, or make a motion…how about if I say that the board move to advertise for a text amendment and an interim measure to protect the citizens of Northampton County and such text amendment would include what the young lady (Janet Sturgis) made mention of some setbacks that were a thousand foot from the property line, 1500 feet from existing or any residential use building such as churches, schools, etc. and a plan that defined area to dispose of all waste products generated on the site, and a plan that would be acceptable to the state veterinarian and DEQ for an area to dispose of dead poultry. Could we do that as an interim measure until such time that there is, or that we can contemplate that at a work session,” Hogg said.
Chairman Hubbard added, “I think what you are talking about is worth consideration, as well as the effects to the aquifer are worth considerations, I don’t believe you mentioned water, and I think that makes a difference. How we do it, I’m not sure the best way to approach it.”
“If you wanted to do it it would need to go to the Planning Commission. The planning commission could put it forward,” Leatherbury said.
“And let them put it forward as a text amendment?” Hogg asked.
Supervisor Larry Lemond responded, “I guess, Mr. Chairman, I understand what you are saying, I agree with what you are saying, but what we have now is working, but the staff furnished us with plans of the properties with chicken houses that could be placed on those properties using the present setbacks. I’d to see the same thing done using the new proposed setbacks of 1000 feet. Lets see what that looks like, and we’ll look at it at the work session. I think that will greatly reduce and I would like to see what it looks like on paper.”
Hogg added, “I think that would be well worth our time.”
The consensus of the Board was to have staff re-model the GIS maps, and furnish those results at the next work session.
Editor’s Note: The idea that intensive farming can be regulated by setbacks alone seems unrealistic. The question is, what if someone were to purchase a very large parcel where 1000 or 1500 foot setbacks are no longer an issue? Or, if a large tomato or potato operation was converted to accommodate large poultry operations? In reality, the only way to truly regulate this industry is through strict county ordinances.