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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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County zoning change may help boost poultry business

Monday, July 21, 2014

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer

Franklin County is paving the way for a possible new business to take off locally.

A zoning ordinance change approved Tuesday night by the board of supervisors allows property zoned A-1 (general agriculture) to be used for a poultry house by right, rather than going through the process of obtaining a special use permit.

The idea of bringing poultry houses into the county to meet current demand was discussed at the May board meeting. During that discussion, supervisors agreed the business prospect is a good one, providing jobs and another possible source of income for farmers, as well as increasing demand for locally-grown grain.

The suggestion was also made to look at the county's ordinances to make sure they are in line with allowing poultry houses.

County staff and planning commission members held three work sessions to discuss an amendment to the A-1 zoning category.

The amendment allows a commercial poultry facility to be included as a use by right rather than by a special use permit. That change can save significant time because there would be no need for a public hearing.

However, the amendment does include supplementary regulations that must be met to avoid obtaining a special use permit. Those regulations include a long list of requirements related to setbacks.

For example, a poultry facility must be set back at least 300 feet from a dwelling, 250 feet from property lines and at least 1,000 feet from a lake or river, public school or residential zoning area.

The owner must also submit a plan of development to the county for approval, which includes a survey of the facility and land, as well as state approval of a nutrient management plan for the facility.

Gills Creek District Supervisor Bob Camicia, the only board member to vote against the zoning change, said he has no problem with the facilities, but he wants more research done to make sure these poultry houses are regulated to the point that they pose no threat to water quality.

"I wish staff would have looked into that more thoroughly," he said.

During the May meeting, Supervisors Chair David Cundiff said poultry companies have indicated they want to expand, and the development of "chicken houses" in the county could provide a huge economic boost.

The industry could help struggling tobacco and dairy farms by providing another way to produce income, he added.

"In Pittsylvania County, it (poultry houses) did save some family farms," Cundiff said. "This is a viable agricultural product and an opportunity for people to move forward."

Cundiff said he has visited poultry houses, which are kept up under very strict industry guidelines.

"There is no smell," he said, explaining that fans keep air moving through the houses constantly and a smell can only be detected close to the fans.

The manure is used for fertilizer, Cundiff said.

The chickens would be grown here, then shipped and processed somewhere else, he added.

"This can be a family business," Cundiff said.

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