Worcester Eyes Panel To Tighten Poultry Farm Regs

SNOW HILL – “Everybody’s happy and pro-farm until it’s in their backyard.”

That, Worcester County resident Harold Scrimgeour says, is why he’s proposed a text amendment that would tighten regulations on poultry operations. Whether his suggestions are adopted or not, Scrimgeour wants to see something on the books as CAFOs — Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations — are becoming more common. According to Scrimgeour the county’s existing regulations aren’t even as tight as the ones poultry companies impose on chicken farms.

“We need better buffers than what the county currently has,” he said. “We are way less strict than the industry.”

Scrimgeour worked with officials from the Worcester County Department of Development Review and Permitting to develop a text amendment to increase requirements for poultry farms being established in the county. Not a chicken farmer himself, Scrimgeour said much of what’s in his text amendment came from similar legislation in neighboring jurisdictions.

“A lot of my guidelines piggybacked with what they came up with,” he said.

Scrimgeour’s text amendment has been presented to the county’s planning commission and was initially tabled so it could be investigated by a work group headed by commission member Brooks Clayville. He said last week that while actually getting such a group together had proved difficult, he had spoken to several farmers about the proposed amendment. He said those discussions led him to believe what was being proposed was too strict.

“What I would do is give it an unfavorable recommendation,” he said. “After all my conversations with folks in person and on the phone, I have another text amendment concerning poultry setbacks rattling around that would be more stringent than what we have now but less restrictive than what Mr. Scrimgeour proposed. I’d probably bring that forward in the next two to three months.”

Scrimgeour said this week he knew the guidelines he proposed were probably stricter than necessary but he thought it would be easier to loosen them than to make them more restrictive.

“I wanted to get the ball rolling and get a panel of stakeholders together,” he said.

Scrimgeour said he’d been pleasantly surprised in recent weeks as many area farmers had thanked him for his efforts with the text amendment.

“I was thinking there’d be backlash but a lot of rural landowners are in support of increased buffers,” he said. “The community has realized it needs to regulate itself better.”

According to Ed Tudor, the county’s director of development review and permitting, Scrimgeour’s text amendment would create a new section of county code to specifically address poultry operations. It would provide density, buffering and setback requirements.

The amendment is expected to be discussed at the September meeting of the Worcester County Planning Commission. Tudor says that at that time, the commission can table the issue or forward it on to the Worcester County Commissioners with either a favorable or unfavorable recommendation.

Even if the commission provides an unfavorable recommendation, the commissioners can still choose to introduce the proposed text amendment and schedule it for a public hearing.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.