The Greene County Commission approved new regulations Monday allowing the location of slaughterhouses in zoning for agricultural land use.
The action revises the Greene County Zoning Resolution to allow small slaughterhouses within an A-1 agricultural zone and puts into place restrictions that have to be met to permit such a facility, including setbacks and buffering from neighboring properties and a limit on the number of animals that can be processed.
The revision to the regulations came as a result of a request to rezone the Jeffrey Clay and Deborah J. Fillers property on the Horton Highway near the Caney Creek Lane intersection from A-1 general agricultural use to M-2 high impact use for a proposed slaughterhouse. Until Monday’s action, slaughterhouses were only allowed in an M-2 zone, which allows the widest variety of land uses within the zoning regulations.
However, in consideration of the rezoning request at its September meeting, the Greene County Regional Planning Commission decided to recommend the regulation revision to allow small slaughterhouses as a special use within an A-1 district.
The new regulations approved by the commission include restrictions for the slaughterhouse that are in place for a facility’s location within an M-2 zone including limiting a building to no larger than an acre in size on a lot of at least 10 acres, providing for a buffer strip to adjacent parcels of land, designating that the establishment must have required federal and state permits and requiring a setback of at lease 200 feet from all property lines with a location on an arterial or collector street.
All of these restrictions are required for slaughterhouses within the A-1 zone. In addition, a limit is placed on the number of animals to be processed annually by slaughterhouses in an agricultural zone. Within an A-1 zone, a slaughterhouse can process up to 1,500 animals yearly. There is no limit placed on how many animals can be processed in an M-2 zone in the regulations.
Jeffrey Fillers told the commission that he and his son began exploring the idea of establishing a slaughterhouse to help meet an increasing need of local farmers to find somewhere to process their animals.
In talking to local farmers, Fillers said he has been told that some are having to wait up to 24 months to get animals processed.
“We have significant capacity problems with packinghouses with some having to cut production due to employees coming down with the coronavirus,” he said. “Greene County is one of the leading locations for the production of beef, so my son and I came up with a proposal … for a custom slaughterhouse.”
Each of the state, federal and county regulations have been met that are required for establishing a slaughterhouse, Filler said, and the process has reached a point that he is ready to break ground, depending on the rezoning decision.
He said he requested the rezoning as he was going through the process of addressing needed regulations, and would not be opposed to remaining in an A-1 zone, but would comply with whatever was decided by the commission.
The slaughterhouse is planned to process around 400 animals a year, Fillers said. A CARES grant from the state has been awarded to Fillers and his son that provides reimbursement of costs involved in the establishment of new slaughterhouses.
A resident of the area spoke against the revision and rezoning, expressing concerns about the impact the slaughterhouse would have on residences in the area, environmental impact and property values.
Another resident spoke in favor of the slaughterhouse to help the local farmers in the county.
In later discussion, officials told the commission that regulations relating to the operation of the slaughterhouse and how its waste is to be disposed of are set by state and federal authorities.
Building Official Tim Tweed told the commission there are strict regulations regarding slaughterhouse operations, including the removal of physical waste from the facility and protection of streams from any liquid waste.
In talks with a state agricultural official about the proposed change, County Attorney Roger Woolsey said he was told that a well run slaughterhouse should garner no complaints from neighbors.
That official also indicated the state is encouraging counties to allow the establishment of slaughterhouses to help meet the increasing need for additional options for farmers to process their animals.
The number of animals to be processed yearly was a recommendation of the state official, Woolsey said, and was the primary difference between the existing M-2 zoning regulations and the proposed A-1 rules.
Commissioners also expressed concerns during the extended discussion that preceded the vote.
Questions were raised by more than one commissioner about whether the proposed slaughterhouse had to follow the same process for the rezoning as existing facilities.
Both Woolsey and Tweed responded that it was the same process. A slaughterhouse that requested rezoning several years ago had to follow the same process, but faced more opposition from neighbors than the new proposal, Woolsey said.
While he is not opposed to a slaughterous within an M-2 one, Commissioner John Waddle expressed concern that if a slaughterhouse is allowed within an A-1 zone, neighboring property owners would not have an opportunity to express any opposition if a landowner decides to establish a facility.
With the M-2 zoning requirement, most would have to request the rezoning, which would allow the neighbors an opportunity to express any concerns, Waddle said.
Other commissioners expressed concern about what other uses that could be allowed within an M-2 zone on the property if it is rezoned and for some reason the slaughterhouse stopped operations in the future.
Commissioner Brad Peters said both sides have valid points and asked if there could be an individual zoning designation created specifically for slaughterhouses, which would address the concerns on both sides.