County hears from both sides of poultry fight, votes on moratorium

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Source: Calhoun Times

Prior to their regularly scheduled meeting this week, Gordon County commissioners heard from several members of the public concerning the ongoing poultry farm issue.

During the commission’s work session Tuesday, several speakers shared concerns, both in favor of and against large chicken operations as the county’s most recent moratorium on new permit applications nears its end.

As a result of the discussion, commissioners eventually voted unanimously to extend the soon-to-expire halt on new poultry operation zoning requests to Nov. 16.

Back on Aug. 20, the commission held an emergency called meeting and voted unanimously in favor of an immediate 60-day halt to all new zoning requests concerning poultry operations so considerations might be made for possible modifications to the county’s Unified Land Development Code — the document that matters of zoning must adhere to locally.

The current version of the county’s ULDC was written in July of 2015, with amendments concerning dry litter poultry operations made two years later in July of 2017.

Addressing the board on the issue of historic preservation as it relates to large chicken house operations, Al Stone said he spoke on behalf of over 700 local citizens, several large corporations and organizations and Native American groups who have offered support to his Environmental Defense of Georgia advocacy organization’s opposition to large dry litter poultry operations.

“We would simply ask you, Gordon County Commissioners, to turn this potential poultry environmental disaster into a blessing. To protect our most sacred area and its water … while looking at the possibility of making this place a distinguished and financial benefit to Gordon County and the United States of America,” Stone said. “Please, please, please join us and make Gordon County a proud home of the Cherokee.”

Much of the most recent opposition of large poultry operations has centered around a summer request to rezone 577 acres on Evergreen Road for a dry litter operation adjacent to Stone’s farm. That was withdrawn shortly after it was recommended for denial by the county zoning board in mid-September.

On the opposite side of the issue, local third generation poultry farmer Jacob Williams told commissioners that large operations are the new normal, even for local family-owned farms.

“Poultry is important to Gordon County,” Williams said. “Poultry can be, and is produced in a way that protects our natural resources while providing a living for landowners and food for all of us here in Georgia.”