Neighbors Worry about Kent Co. Chicken Operation, Meeting Tuesda - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Neighbors Worry about Kent Co. Chicken Operation, Meeting Tuesday to Discuss

DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - Kent County leaders call a large chicken operation moving forward in Farmington "unprecedented."

Two separately-owned sites, not far from each other, are approved to have as many as 30 chicken houses when combined. One site has approval for ten. The other has the go-ahead for 20.

There are chicken operations all over Delmarva. But it's the size of what is happening in Farmington that has caught people's attention.

Levy Court Commissioner Eric Buckson says the size is unprecedented for Kent County. That's got neighbors worried.

Betty Wood lives just down the road from properties where the large poultry operations are going to be built.

"I'm really concerned about our property value going down because of all the chicken houses going in. I'm sure there will be a lot of smell from those, too," she said.

"It's going to be a lot," said Jerry Tucker, who lives next to Wood. "It's going to be smell, a lot of trucking in and out, a lot of early morning loading and unloading, hauling of chicken manure. We already go through that with the houses that are here. It's going to affect our property values, too."

Delmarva Poultry Industry officials say a normal newly constructed chicken facility will have three to five houses. They can hold 30,000-50,000 chickens. And it costs about $400,000 to put up just one fully-equipped house.

So, ten or twenty is an expensive proposition. And county leaders say it's a proposition that's fine from a regulatory perspective - a qualifying agricultural use for land zoned for agricultural use.

People who live in Farmington, but not right next to the sites, are less worried than immediate neighbors.

"I think it's both good and bad," said Joseph Thomas. "The smell might affect people. But there will also be people working. That's more jobs and stuff."

"I think it's a marvelous idea to bring them on in. The population is growing. We need more chickens," Edward Downing said.

Wood seems resigned to the fact that these chicken houses are coming, whether she likes it or not.

"Probably it doesn't matter what I say or what the other neighbors say. It's their property. I suppose they can do whatever they want on it."

WBOC's attempts to reach the properties' owners were unsuccessful.

Commissioner Buckson is hosting a meeting Tuesday night at 5:30 at the Levy Court building to discuss CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations.

He says it's about starting a discussion. The chicken houses slated for this land might only be the tip of the iceberg.

Buckson wants to talk with interested parties about if that's a good thing or a bad thing for the county. And, either way, he wonders what the county wants to do about them moving forward.

According to the national organization Food and Water Watch, there are 6,300 of these chicken farms nationwide as of 2012.  

Food and Water Watch classifies mega-farms as having 500,000 chickens a year.

According to the Delmarva Poultry Industry, there were 4,600 chicken houses that produced 212 million meat chickens in Delaware in 2012.      
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