Newark Residents Share Concerns Over Legislative Change

NEWARK – A text amendment that would let farmers butcher and sell beef is expected to be considered by county officials next month.

The Worcester County Planning Commission on Feb. 3 is set to consider a text amendment that would allow livestock farms to slaughter, package and sell beef. The amendment has been proposed by Newark resident Bob Ewell, who wants to sell beef from the cattle he raises on his Croppers Island Road farm.

“To the extent that livestock is raised on any such farm, this text amendment simply makes clear that livestock raised on the farm can be slaughtered, packaged and sold from the farm,” said Ewell’s attorney, Mark Cropper. “This is no different than other agricultural products (vegetables) being planted and grown on the farm and thereafter sold.”

According to county staff, agriculturally zoned land can be used to raise and sell livestock, and can be used for roadside stands offering processed agricultural products for sale. Staff determined when Ewell inquired last year that it cannot be used for the slaughtering of livestock.

As a result, Cropper has now submitted a text amendment, which is not site specific, to allow slaughtering as an accessory use to farms in the A-1 agricultural district.

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Some Worcester County residents are concerned, as the text amendment would apply to any agricultural land.

“This is a countywide issue,” said Michele Sardelis, a concerned citizen and resident of Croppers Island Road. “We want everyone in the county to be aware.”

She said impacts to the environment would be huge, as a significant amount of water was used to slaughter cattle. She’s also worried about wastewater going into local waterways.

Sardelis believes slaughtering cattle should be limited to the industrial zoning district, particularly since Worcester County values its image as a tourist destination.

“I don’t think that’s what Worcester County wants to present for tourists,” she said.

Other residents have said that the Croppers Island Road neighborhood, which consists of more than 50 homes, is already subject to the commercial activity of the Island Resort Campground. They don’t want what they see as another commercial activity added to that.

Cropper, however, said that with the current code Ewell could already sell beef from his farm.

“Although a good argument can be made that the existing definition of ‘roadside stand’ already allows this use, the purpose of this text amendment is simply to make it clear,” Cropper said. “No farmer should be required to rezone a portion of a farm ‘commercial’ to accommodate this use, nor should a farmer be required to transport livestock off of the farm to be slaughtered, packaged and returned to the farm to sell the final packaged product. There is no doubt that a farmer can sell the final packaged product from the farm.  The only issue is whether the same farmer can perform the slaughtering and packaging on site.  This text amendment is intended to make clear that you can.”

The Worcester County Planning Commission is expected to consider the text amendment Thursday, Feb. 3 at 1 p.m.

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.