County Tables Proposed Poultry Changes For Further Staff Review

SNOW HILL – The county’s planning commission has again tabled a text amendment that would tighten poultry regulations.

Last week the Worcester County Planning Commission agreed to postpone consideration of the text amendment proposed by Harold Scrimgeour to give county staff members time to draft their own version of the amendment. That version is expected to be considered at the commission’s October meeting.

“I know it’s a complicated issue,” commission member Betty Smith said. “I think perhaps it needs another look.”

Scrimgeour spent several months working with employees from the Worcester County Department of Development Review and Permitting to develop the text amendment. As proposed, it significantly tightens the regulations on poultry farms in the county, particularly those large enough to be considered CAFOs — Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. Scrimgeour says the county’s existing regulations aren’t even as strict as those the poultry industry imposes on itself.

Scrimgeour, who is not a chicken farmer, says most of what’s in his proposed amendment mirrors what has been adopted in neighboring jurisdictions. He encouraged commission members to adjust the amendment as they saw fit.

“I was hoping this would be a template,” he said.

Scrimgeour simply wants to get something on the books as CAFOs continue to cause controversy throughout Delmarva. He believes density requirements and proper setbacks would enable Eastern Shore residents and CAFOs to coexist more peacefully.

Ed Tudor, the county’s director of development review and permitting, said that while his office had helped Scrimgeour with the amendment it was Scrimgeour’s project. He said he had concerns with certain aspects of the proposal.

“There are a number of things in here that deserve significant consideration,” he said.

One of the biggest concerns he has with Scrimgeour’s amendment is that it would allow certain setback requirements to be waived if neighboring property owners agreed. That, he said, was a problem, as property could be sold at any time and future landowners might not feel the same as their predecessors.

“We don’t zone by agreement,” Tudor said. “It complicates matters. That gets impossible to administrate.”

Commission member Brooks Clayville thanked Scrimgeour for his efforts and suggested Tudor and his staff draft a text amendment based on the one already submitted.

Scrimgeour said he was simply eager to see updated poultry regulations, whether they were the ones he put forth or not.

“We need to be more proactive,” he said.

Assateague Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips, who was in the audience at last week’s meeting, agreed. She said she appreciated Scrimgeour’s efforts and hoped the commission would move forward with the density provisions in his amendment. She said it was important for the county to protect its landscape.

“Worcester County is known for its rural areas but it’s also known as being a fantastic area for ecotourism,” she said.

Phillips said she wanted to see the county retain the array of small family farms it was home to now.

“Density provisions will keep our area comfortably rural and not industrialized,” she said. “Let’s keep Worcester County a place people want to come to.”

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.