Neighbors of Planned Chicken Houses Find Meeting Frustrating - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Neighbors of Planned Chicken Houses Find Meeting Frustrating

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(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)
DOVER, Del. (WBOC)- The proverbial chicken is already out of the coop. That was the theme of a discussion Tuesday night in Dover about two massive chicken operations planned for southern Kent County and the future of chicken farming in central Delaware.

Two separately-owned sites in one small area of Farmington are approved to have as many as a combined 30 chicken houses.

Neighbors are really concerned. But they were told at the meeting, despite the size of these projects, they are legal and well within state and county rules and regulations. So they're going ahead. And with concerns about road safety, water quality, smell and property value decline, that's something neighbors find frustrating.

Angel Harrington lives right next to one of the sites of the chicken houses. She was one of the dozens of people who packed into a room in the Levy Court Building Tuesday night.

"I felt like it was saying, 'We're sorry, but there's nothing we can do now," she said. "The cat is out of the bag. The cat is out of the bag, so to speak. Maybe we'll do something for the future. But there's nothing we can do now.'"

Levy Court Commissioner Eric Buckson, who called the meeting, said the county follows the planning and zoning rules set in state statute.

"They've been very clear, and I think rightfully so, that agricultural use should be permitted," he said. "The question is, is this a game changer?"

Buckson said it is unprecedented in Kent County. Delaware Agriculture Secretary Ed Kee said the plan for these sites might be the largest he has seen in his career.

"I don't think we can change this," Kee said. "Because decisions have been made according to the rules. But also I think it has stimulated some possible rethinking about size and scope and what's appropriate."

"State leaders have to decide is this something that's bigger than they envisioned, and we could lose control of if we're not careful," said Buckson. "Or are we OK with it, and we just want to move out of the way?"

Buckson wonders if the huge chicken operations in Farmington might be only the tip of the iceberg for Kent County. Kee doesn't think so.

"Frankly, I think these house situations that have popped up are an anomaly, just happening as a fluke or coincidence," he said. "I don't think we're going to see much more of this."

As far as what could be changed moving forward, one idea that was mentioned was that state law could make future, similar plans qualify as a "commercial," rather than "agricultural." That would significantly increase the amount of scrutiny a project would face at multiple levels during its approval process.
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