GRADY COUNTY Commissioner Ray Prince, who is a successful local farmer, has called for a moratorium on chicken houses in the county.
Grady County attorney Gabe Ridley was asked Tuesday to look into the possibility of the county issuing a moratorium on any new chicken houses in the county at the request Commissioner Ray Prince, a successful farmer himself.
Since December 2019, the county has issued building permits for 18 new chicken houses.
“The chicken houses have got to be addressed. And, as much as I hate to say it zoning does, too,” Commissioner Prince said Tuesday. He warned to do nothing would result in the county being “run over with chicken houses.”
On Dec. 10, 2019, the county issued permits for eight new houses at 1636 County Line Rd. to Muon Le of Le Poultry at a value of $158,000 each.
Then, on Feb. 10, 2020, a permit for an additional eight houses at 188 Royals Ln. was issued to Pauline Van Nguyen at a value of $157,500 each.
Most recently, on Feb. 26, 2020 a permit for two new chicken houses to be build at 4817 Old 179 North was issued to Crosson Farms at a value of $160,000 each.
Prince said at one time it appeared no more chicken houses would be built here, but with the opening of a processing plant in Moultrie, the demand for additional houses has increased and people are looking to put them where they can.
Commission Chairman Keith Moye asked Ridley if a moratorium could be enacted. According to Ridley, in the absence of zoning in unincorporated Grady County it would be difficult to enact a moratorium on chicken houses.
“We’ve done it in the past. We put a moratorium on permits,” Prince said
In May 2016, the county commission issued a 60-day moratorium on the issuance of permits for new chicken houses to provide the county time to look into stregthening the county’s specific land use regulations governing chicken houses. That moratorium was ultimately extended for an additional 60 days in July 2016.
The county lifted the moratorium in August when the board unanimously adopted a tougher ordinance that was put into effect immediately.
Under the amended Grady County code of ordinances approved in August 2016, chicken houses cannot be constructed until a final “as built” survey is provided to the county code enforcement department. This requires developers to show that structures are built consistent with the site plan and comply with setback requirements that were already a part of the code.
The stricter ordinance requires that no livestock buildings or structures can be erected less than 100 feet from the boundary of the 100 year flood zone.
Grady County code also requires each facility to have a dry stack house for dry composting of poultry manure and the stack houses cannot be located closer than 100 feet from any drinking water well. The amended ordinance requires stack houses have concrete floors and be covered from exposure to rain and sunlight.
The amended law further stipulates that incinerators used to burn and destroy dead chickens must have a secondary combustion chamber.
The code states that each facility will have a 30-foot wide grass buffer and be maintained as long as the facility is in operation.
Off and on for the last several years, the board has heard complaints from property owners whose property neighbors or is near a chicken house operation.
Prince shared with commissioners Tuesday his recent experience involving his response to a complaint by a constituent concerning a chicken house on Cain Road, which is off Spence Road. “You could smell it a mile away. It’s the worst I’ve ever seen or smelled,” Prince said.
Prince said the operators of the chicken house are stacking manure on the top of a hill and when it rains it flows downhill and onto neighboring property. “The flies will cover you up” on the neighboring property, according to Prince.
How waste is handled by big feed operations is regulated by the state Environmental Protection Division and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, according to Ridley. The county attorney suggested state and federal officials could play a role in addressing local concerns.
Prince says that chicken houses “run properly” have “zero smell,” but he contends the operators of the Cain Road operation are not doing things properly.
“The key to it is zoning,” Commissioner LaFaye Copeland said Tuesday.
Prince suggested until zoning could be enacted, possible revisions to the county’s existing ordinances might be necessary. “This is something we’ve got to address in this county,” Prince said.
“Will do,” Ridley responded.