County hears from public, extends poultry moratorium

Gordon County resident Lisa Stone addresses commissioners during a public hearing concerning changes to the ULDC requirements for large dry litter poultry operations.

After hearing from members of the public at this week’s meeting, the Gordon County Board of Commissioners voted to extend the current moratorium on new poultry operations.

In a unanimous vote, commissioners decided to Tuesday evening to extend the halt on new applications for zoning concerning chicken houses though Dec. 7, the date of the board’s next meeting following a second reading of proposed changes.

A dozen people addressed commissioners during a public hearing, nine in favor of proposed amendments to the local Unified Land Code Development concerning dry litter poultry operations in the county, and three opposed to any changes.

Representing a group of concerned citizens known as Environmental Defense of Georgia (EDOG), Al Stone asked commissioners to “stand with us for liberty for the American farmer and American citizen.”

“Stand against greed,” Stone said. “No toxification without representation.”

Former chemical engineer and Sonoraville resident Jennifer Beason expressed concern over the air quality around poultry operations.

“I think we really need to consider doing our own environmental impact study,” Beason told commissioners.

Lisa Stone asked commissioners to extend the halt on poultry operation permits.

“We want the farmers to have their chance at doing what it is they want to do,” she said. “But we also want to make sure that it’s beneficial for everybody around them. Please control this problem. That’s what citizens want you to do.”

Wrights Hollow Road resident David McKnight told the board he thinks enforcement of any current or any future ULDC codes concerning poultry operations is the most important part, saying additional ordinance officers and fines should be considered in future county budgeting.

Pleasant Hill Road resident Stuart Mason echoed McKnight’s concerns, showing commissioners photos of what he called “steaming piles” of waste from a chicken operation near his residence.

“This is not farming, this is an industrial operation,” he said. “The owners of these operations are becoming quite wealthy, while the neighbors in the area suffer.”

Gordon County Farm Bureau Vice President Michael Williams spoke against any changes to the current ULDC concerning chicken operations.

“Just to go on record, we oppose any changes to any ordinance,” Williams said. “We think the ordinance we had in place was sound, but we do not agree with anything that has been presented.”

Area poultry house contractor Mark Owens said large operations are necessary to keep food prices low and to keep up with demand across the nation for chicken products.

“In a nation where only 1% of the people are producing all the food for the whole nation, plus other parts of the world, it takes industrial farming ... it takes big farms,” Owens said. “These chickens have to be raised somewhere before they get to the restaurants and grocery stores.”

Local business owner Adam Williamson told the board his customers feel threatened by the land code changes.

“We are passionate about this because people are coming after our lifestyle,” he said. “I wish that the poultry industry would make you wealthy, but it won’t. It’s a living, but anything in agriculture, you have to be diversified.”

Williamson also offered a warning to commissioners, saying the proposed ordinance changes would make life very difficult for local farmers he knows.

“If you want to go ahead and stop the future poultry farms in Georgia and Gordon County, this ordinance with the current changes would do it,” he said. “Having built and gone though the process building a new farm, looking at this current ordinance, it’s going to be near impossible. So this is a good way to stop it if that’s what your goal is.”

Also passing unanimously Tuesday night were three rezoning requests, including an application by David Fowler for a near two-acre lot on Dews Pond Road from A-1 to R-1 low density; Kevin Osbourne’s request to rezone from R-1 to R-6 manufactured housing to correct a zoning and remodel a doublewide; and Stephen Ware’s request to rezone a property from A-1 to RA-1 residential agriculture to build three single-family homes on a six-acre parcel.

Kent Lawson was unanimously re-appointed to the Department of Public Health as the county’s representative through Dec. 31, 2027.

A number of other items passing unanimously Tuesday night included $14,000 for upgraded radios for the Georgia State Patrol ($8,937) and District Attorney’s Office ($4,474) for compatibility with new county equipment.

Miscellaneous information technology equipment was declared surplus to be sold, while the county also entered into a memorandum of understanding with the government of Plainville for ordinance enforcement. The municipality recently adopted all county codes to be used in their limits.

The county also acknowledged the acceptance of a Veristor Capital master lease schedule certificate, and approved the $4,900 renewal of an automatic updating software for the county’s IT department.

The next meeting of the Gordon County Board of Commissioners is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 7. All meetings are open to the public.

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