Several county residents came out to Tuesday’s Citizen Corner and County Council legislative session to urge the Council to not delay the enactment of zoning changes for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO).
During their Tuesday morning work session, the Cecil County Council voted to accept additional CAFO zoning restrictions. That vote was followed by a second vote to delay submitting their proposed zoning changes to the planning commission. This three-month delay is expected to allow chicken CAFOs currently in the development process to move forward.
The motion to delay the CAFO zoning changes was made by Council member Jackie Gregory and was seconded by Bob Meffley.
Eric Sennstrom, Director of Planning for the county, told the Council that state law and subsequent court cases said that in order for projects to be able to continue amid approved zoning changes, otherwise known as “grandfathered,” the project has to have been granted a building permit and have actually started construction.
County Council members noted that it has taken a long time for the Horst Farm in Calvert to go through the process. Sennstrom reported that one other CAFO is currently in the process.
Councilman Dan Schneckenburger voted against the delay saying it is time to make the agreed changes and that delaying could result in additional projects getting into the planning pipeline, causing more concern.
If the process to enact the CAFO zoning changes started this month, officials said they could be enacted by March. The three month delay pushed enactment of the regulations until next summer.
On Tuesday evening, the Council was criticized for the delay.
Sue Orndorf said the Council needs to be leaders, not reactive. Council member Gregory said there are farms in the process. Orndorf said county residents have already been asking for these changes for more than a year.
John Turner said having CAFOs will drive down property values, saying the stink and insects from a million birds will be significant.
“What about us?” Donna Allen said, asking the Council to think of homeowners near the CAFOs, not just the chicken industry.
Dave Mullin asked why the county officials have ignored the calls from residents to conduct a health impact study on CAFOs.
Karen Keane said that while she is sympathetic with farming, she believes CAFOs to be an industrial use of property, not a farming use.
Jeff Pettit of Elkton said he is the other CAFO in the process and said that if the zoning is changed, he will be unable to build the six chicken houses he wants to place on his property.