Council hears mixed opinions on chicken farms
— Cecil County farmers weighed in on the proposed Perdue-Coleman chicken farm in the Calvert/Zion area for the first time publicly Tuesday night.
Proponents and opponents attended the monthly Citizens Corner meeting and stayed for public comment during a back-to-back legislative meeting to voice concerns on plans for a local farmer to enlarge his farming operation for commercial chicken production.
John and Nancy Kilby, Colora residents who come from a farm family, along with Linda Crothers, a Calvert/Zion area farmer, told the county council they support the Horst family’s decision to contract with Perdue to raise chickens.
“I thank you for supporting our right to farm,” Crothers said, noting she is very familiar with the state’s strict nutrient management program.
“I support Horst and Perdue,” John Kilby added. “I’ve known the Horst family for many years and they are good neighbors, and Perdue is a good company.”
Kilby, who also is a real estate agent, told the council that he understands why Galen Horst would seek an agreement with Perdue.
“There’s no future in traditional farming,” he said, explaining that small farms are increasingly being replaced with bigger farms. “Horst must adapt and change.”
A resident of Conowingo also said he is looking forward to a Perdue chicken operation in Cecil County because it may offer new jobs.
On the other hand, opponents to the Horst chicken farm brought up many of the same concerns they’ve voiced at several previous public meetings on the topic.
They reiterated prior concerns about health issues and a potential decrease in property value, but also noted Tuesday night that they don’t think it’s the best deal for farmers, citing studies and articles that indicate farmers who entered into agreements for commercial chicken farms carry heavy debt.
Opponents asked the council Tuesday night to consider adopting tighter regulations to the current zoning laws in regard to large chicken farms or CAFOs, confined animal feeding operations, so they don’t take over Cecil County.
Jim Jones, one of the opponents, referred to the situation as the “PerdueColeman takeover.” Another opponent issued a “call to action to rezone” to the county council.
However, county council members have no legal authority to ask for a zoning amendment under the current county zoning code.
That could change Oct. 18 when the council will consider a bill they introduced Tuesday night that would allow county council members to initiate amendments to the zoning ordinance. If passed, the new law would take effect 60 days later.
“We’ve all done a lot of research on this issue,” Councilman George Patchell told citizens. “But, right now, any zoning change has to come from the administration. That’s why we’re trying to change the law on this.”
“I’m taking this to heart, I see both sides,” Council Vice President Alan McCarthy added. “Let’s look at all things we can or can’t do before we jump off the cliff.”
Chicken farm opponent Krystal Woodworth, of North East, asks the county council to tighten zoning restrictions for future large commercial operations.