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Lots of new chicken houses being built or on drawing board, Ivy reports

With stiffer regulations in neighboring counties preventing the expansion of chicken houses, agri-businessmen are looking to Grady County where there is no zoning and the county’s chicken house ordinance is less stringent.
During the first week of 2015, Grady County Code Enforcement Officer Larry Ivy issued 12 permits for new chicken houses to be constructed in northeastern sections of the county.
All 12 permits were issued to Spence Road Farm, LLC, and will be constructed at 538 Spence Road and have an estimated value of $98,000 each.
According to county records, the permits issued to Spence Road Farm, LLC, include the name of the applicant Vy Dao.
Public records also show that between Dec. 26, 2014, and Jan. 2, 2015, Vy Dao of Moultrie closed on the purchase of property in north Grady County bought from Ash Leaf Farms, LLC,of Meigs at a sales price of $700,000.
In addition to these 12 fryer houses, Ivy reports that he anticipates permit applications for an additional 20 more to be built on a large tract of land located on County Line Road.
“These chicken houses are not being put in by local folks. The people I have been dealing with are from out-of-town, but they have been purchasing large tracts of land in the northern part of the county,” Ivy said.
Public records also reflect another large property transaction recorded between Dec. 26, 2014, and Jan. 2, 2015. Nghe Van Phan of Hartsfield, Ga., purchased 171.1 acres from Norma L. Moree of Camilla for a sales price of $496,190.
Ivy says that this is the tract where additional chicken houses are expected to be built.
The only permits issued to local residents, according to Ivy, are three egg laying houses that are being built by David Avery on Georgia Highway 111 North near the Grady County line.
The Grady County chicken house ordinance requires a 1,500 foot setback from any residence other than the owner’s residence and a 250 foot setback from the property line.
According to Ivy, the setback from the property line is not waivable, but residents within 1,500 feet of a chicken house can sign a waiver that would permit the chicken house to be constructed.
Ivy said that applicants for chicken house permits are required to have a site plan including a survey that indicates the proposed location of the chicken houses and identifies the required setbacks from residences and property lines.
“We take their survey and verify it with the tax assessor’s office and site inspections,” Ivy said.
The code enforcement officer said that the proposed new fryer houses are 600 feet long and 46 feet wide and will be built 60 feet apart.
“I’m told they will produce 25,000 birds each grow out and a grow out period is approximately eight weeks,” Ivy said.
Ivy said these new houses are being built here to supply the needs of the Sanderson Farms plant in Moultrie.
“The first question I get when people call is whether or not Grady County has zoning. Thomas County and Mitchell County have zoning and Mitchell has tightened their regulations up, so that these folks can’t put any more chicken houses up there. I guess that is why they are coming here,” Ivy said.
Although no one has submitted an application yet, Ivy said his office has been contacted about chicken houses being constructed on a site in northwest Grady County near the Decatur County line.
In addition to calls from people interested in building new chicken houses here, Ivy said this week he has also received calls from concerned citizens.
“Some people who have bought small tracts in the county to live in the country are worried about having chicken houses nearby. All I can tell them is that this is a farming community and the farmers are trying to make a living. All we have to regulate them is our chicken house ordinance that was adopted in 1993. If they meet the requirements I have no choice but to issue them a permit,” Ivy said.
The county code enforcement officer said that county commissioners are also receiving calls.
Much of the concern is with the odor from these types of operations. Ivy said the new chicken houses are different from those originally constructed in the county. He said that the new design has solid, insulated walls, which cuts down on odors except when litter is removed and from the composting of the dead birds. Ivy also says that for three to four days after a farmer puts litter out over a field and it rains, a strong odor is emitted.
“We need them because we like to eat and we like to eat lots of chicken. These houses will also add to the county’s tax digest, but I don’t think it will create many jobs,” Ivy said.
Ivy estimates that before this surge in permits, the county was home to approximately 60 chicken houses.
Retired University of Georgia Extension Service Agent Don Clark said that the chicken industry is moving out of north Georgia to south Georgia due to a lack of land that chicken houses can be built on.
“It used to be that every farmer in Grady County had a hog operation to provide them with a steady source of income to pay some bills. Now, the hog industry has moved to North Carolina and no one raises hogs here anymore. Our local farmers began to turn to chicken houses to supplement their income and to reduce their cost of fertilizer by using the chicken litter as a fertilizer for their crops,” Clark said.
The retired ag agent, who now runs his own agriculture consulting firm, said that prices for corn and cotton in 2014 were extremely low and prices are predicted to remain low or drop even lower in 2015, which is another incentive for farmers to invest in chicken houses.
Clark, who has worked with local farmers for decades, said the investment in chicken houses from non-Grady County residents is more than likely due to the county’s less stringent regulations.

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