Council To Consider Ag Building Permit Moratorium

SALISBURY – Officials in Wicomico County introduced a legislative bill this week declaring a six-month moratorium on the issuance of building permits for certain agricultural storage tanks.

On Tuesday, the Wicomico County Council voted to introduce legislation that would declare a moratorium on the issuance of building permits for agricultural storage tanks that store waste, or sludge, from poultry renderings.

“I will state now that I am not happy about a moratorium on anything, especially anything to do with our farming community,” said Councilman Joe Holloway. “But I do realize the issues that we are having, that neighbors are having.”

Earlier this year, Wicomico County Planning, Zoning and Community Development issued a building permit that would allow a local farmer to construct a 3-million-gallon storage tank containing poultry by-products on his property in the area of Porter Mill Road. Since that time, several nearby residents have shared their concerns with the council regarding the potential smells and hazards associated with the tank.

Councilman Larry Dodd said the proposed moratorium would allow county officials to review the permitting process regarding any future storage tanks.

“This is just a temporary moratorium because we don’t want another one of these million-gallon tanks to pop up in a neighborhood and we get a new group of people in here complaining,” Councilman Larry Dodd said. “It’s just temporary … I just want to make sure we are doing the right thing.”

The legislation was initially presented this week as a one-year moratorium. The council, however, voted 5-2 to amend the moratorium to six months, with Councilman Bill McCain and Councilwoman Nicole Acle opposed.

Councilman Ernie Davis and McCain argued the council should discuss a moratorium on the issue after a stakeholder meeting scheduled for next week.

“I do feel like we are putting the cart before the horse,” McCain said. “There is a meeting on October 10 with the stakeholders and the state of Maryland regarding this exact topic. I really wish we were waiting to even introduce this until at least after that.”

Councilman Josh Hastings, however, said something needed to be done sooner rather than later.

“I think at least having a six-month, not a full-year, moratorium gives us time to think through what is the best policy,” he said.

Council President John Cannon said it was his belief the meeting scheduled for October 10 focused on the application process and concerns related to smell. He noted that the intent of the memorandum was to address zoning issues.

“This particular moratorium is focusing on zoning issues and storage tank issues,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the odor. It has nothing to do with the application. We want to make that clear.”

Dodd made a motion to introduce the legislation, which was seconded by Acle.

“I would like to see one year, but I understand the rationale of six months,” she said.

The council voted 5-2, with McCain and Davis opposed, to introduce the legislative bill.

“I think we are getting ahead of ourselves,” Davis said.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.