Turkey houses approved

Published 3:31 pm Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Buckingham County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the rezoning for two turkey houses to be built in the area of Deer Run Road during its meeting Monday.

The proposed turkey facilities, which would house 25,000 turkeys each, would be located on approximately 100 acres on Deer Run Road.

The property is currently zoned Agricultural-1. The zoning ordinance in the county requires that intensive farming facilities be zoned Agricultural Comprehensive.

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Seven members of the public spoke during the hearing. Five speakers expressed concerns about runoff, potential threats to water quality and the facility’s proximity to the neighbors on the street. Two speakers expressed support for the project.

District Five Planning Commissioner Sammy Smith said during the hearing that farmers in the county are older and typically do not see high earnings. He asked the board to approve the project.

“Farmers make provisions for their families,” Smith said. “In my opinion, this turkey house needs to go through.”

Speakers Beverley and David Klein said their farm is close to a mile away from the turkey houses. Beverley said her family lived in the county for 150 years and said she was a lifelong resident.

Beverley expressed concern about the project and its proximity to nearby landowners.

“We are as engrained in this county as much as anyone else,” Beverley said.

Beverley and David asked the board to delay approval of the project until a hydrologist could determine whether there is enough water to sustain the project and surrounding residents, and if the water quality would be safe.

“You represent all of us,” Beverley said to the board.

David said he had no problem with turkey houses in general, or the applicant. He shared Beverley’s concern about the potential impact to water quality and strain of existing water sources in the area. He noted that a subdivision proposed near the area was denied by the board of supervisors after it was discovered there would not be enough water to support the subdivision.

Speaker Marty Scott said he lives adjacent to the project. He shared other neighbors’ concerns about the water supply and how it would affect new homeowners and their families.

Ivan Chip Davis, president of the Buckingham County Farm Bureau, said he and his son applied to operate a poultry facility a few years ago. It was approved by the county, but Davis said the challenging part was meeting the conditions set by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

He said he and his son have not received complaints from neighbors about the turkey houses except for minor issues.

Davis said he understands the financial risk involved with taking on a poultry farm project, and praised Manis for taking on the challenge and said the Bureau endorsed the project.

“Buckingham Farm Bureau supports anyone who wants to go into farming and do it in a proper way,” Davis said. “We greatly respect and admire these young men and their families for going into this.”

District Seven Supervisor Danny Allen asked whether a buffer made up of trees would be needed for the project. He clarified that other projects the county approved have had buffers in the past.

Applicant Benjamin Manis said there are some limitations to install a buffer. He said there is a power line in front of the property and noted a 40-foot difference in elevation between where the turkey buildings are going and where the road and most surrounding properties are located.

District Three Supervisor Don Matthews asked Manis about a hydraulic study or if there have been solutions about addressing the water needs, particularly if there is a drought.

Manis said the facilities would require less than 20,000 gallons a day. This would potentially rise to 20,000 during hot weather, but Manis said this development would be temporary. He said he may need two wells to receive that amount, and said there was no way to know whether the water was available until they began digging the wells. He said most aquifers would refill after a period of time.

“That’s something that will be addressed,” Manis said.

Manis said he is working with engineers and excavators to prevent runoff from the property.

“I would rather it look like a poultry barn and not a prison facility,” Manis said about the project. “Again, that’s what we’re looking at. We’re looking at a farming operation. We’re not looking at a facility to house convicts.”

Manis said he is “just trying an honest living, trying to make the least amount of impact to the county and to the land that I live on, the land that I love.”

The application for the project cited that there would be two poultry houses, feed bins and a liter shed. A memo from the county cited: “The applicant has indicated that he will be able to meet the ordinance setback requirements.”

There were seven conditions set out by the county should the poultry facility be approved. Some of the conditions include that the applicant obtain a Nutrient Management Plan and Erosion and Sediment Control Plan prior to installing the facility, that the facility follow federal, state and local regulations, and that any violations of the conditions could lead to a stop order and discontinuation of the rezoning approval.