Coun­cil hears mixed opin­ions on chicken farms

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By CH­ERYL MAT­TIX

cmat­tix@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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.”

ELK­TON

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.”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY CH­ERYL MAT­TIX

Chicken farm op­po­nent Krys­tal Wood­worth, of North East, asks the county coun­cil to tighten zon­ing re­stric­tions for fu­ture large com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions.

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