ACCOMACK COUNTY, Va. (WVEC) -- Accomack officials approved 8-0 a change to the county zoning ordinance regulating poultry houses that means the county no longer will allow commercial poultry operations in residential or general business zoning districts.
Poultry houses before the change were allowed in those two districts with a special use permit.
Two people spoke at the Accomack County Board of Supervisors June 21 meeting during a public hearing about the amendment.
Miriam Riggs of Onancock urged the board to pass the amendment and also to keep tabs on the number of poultry houses in the county.
The county planning department in 2015 said there were plans in the works for 100 new poultry houses in the county, she said.
"Since that time, the numbers of applications and permits have been steadily growing, far exceeding the original estimates," Riggs said, adding, "It's not clear to me that the county has an actual ceiling limit on the number of these industrial operations which can be located here."
Riggs questioned whether, in allowing such numbers of new poultry operations, the county is providing "adequate protection for other viable industries, such as aquaculture, or for long-term groundwater protection for all residents."
Carl Mayer of Quinby also spoke in favor of the amendment, calling it "an important first step;" but he added, "I would very much urge the board to consider additional steps."
Mayer said there could be "damage to other industries," such as fishing and tourism, from pollution stemming from commercial poultry operations.
"We're no longer talking about individual family farms. What we are now talking about is factory production of poultry, which has enormous waste and enormous consequences for the water, the air and public health," he said.
"I very much hope you will do more in the future to curb the consequences of this new type of industrial production," Mayer said.
Planning department staff in January asked the Accomack County Board of Supervisors to begin pursuing an amendment to remove the possibility of poultry houses being built in business or residential districts.
The request came after an application for a special use permit was submitted to the Accomack County Board of Zoning Appeals to build four poultry houses on a 206-acre parcel in Horntown that is farmland, but part of which is in a residential zone.
The farm has been in applicant Horace E. Kelley III's family and farmed since 1927, but the front of the property is zoned residential, according to Board of Zoning Appeals meeting minutes.
Seven people spoke at the Dec. 21, 2016, Board of Zoning Appeals meeting — all of them were against granting the special use permit. The speakers included Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper Jay Ford, Barbara Harvey, Milton Savage Jr., Aaron Kane, Joseph Valentine, Riggs and Ann Violi.
After a lengthy discussion, the board denied the request.
The planning department also had an inquiry about putting a commercial poultry operation near the town of Nelsonia, according to a memorandum from planning department staffer Kristen Tremblay to the Board of Supervisors.
The Planning Commission held a public hearing on the proposed change in March, when no one from the public spoke, and subsequently recommended the board approve the amendment.