PRINCESS ANNE, Md.- The Somerset County Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing Thursday night about proposed amendments to the county's zoning ordinance and the way it regulates poultry house development.
There have been plenty of ruffled feathers along Backbone Road for more than a year in Somerset County. Some people in the community have been worried about massive poultry operations moving into their neighborhoods.
Samuel Berley of Princess Anne lives next to the latest cluster of chicken homes, and he is not happy.
"It's too many chicken houses in too small a space," Berley said.
Lisa Inzerillo lives on a farm up the road near six other poultry houses. According to Billy Colona, a subcontractor for the owner of the operation, 50,000 chickens will be moved into each building next week. Inzerillo said she and others are concerned about noise, odor and a drop in property values, among other things.
"We have concerns about health issues with the amount of air pollutants that these bring to neighbors and [the poultry houses] being placed so close to our neighborhoods," Inzerillo said.
Colona does not agree with the level of worry spreading throughout the community.
"This guy [Ben Nguyen, owner of six poultry houses in the area] has gone above what he should do," Colona said. "I mean he's planted all of these trees, $60,000 worth of trees around here and he's put sediment ponds in."
Seventy-percent of Somerset County is zoned as part of an Agricultural Residential District, which allows poultry house development. After hearing a year's worth of concerns, the Planning and Zoning Commission has proposed changes to regulations. Suggestions include: increased setbacks, vegetated buffers and a new setback for tunnel fans.
According to county documents, Somerset County requires a parcel to be at least 10 acres in size in order to have poultry houses. Wicomico and Worcester counties require five acres. Dorchester County does not have a minimum size requirement. Counties on the upper shore generally have a 20-acre minimum requirement.
According to regulations, setbacks for poultry houses are 200 feet from the center line of the road and 100 feet from property lines. The P & Z Commission is willing to increase setbacks, for the rear, from 75 feet to 100 feet and the sides from 50 feet to 100.
Poultry houses that exceed 200,000-square-feet in floor area would require a special exception from the Board of Zoning Appeals. A minimum of 20-feet wide vegetated buffers would be required as well.
Thursday public hearing starts at 7 p.m. and will be held in the Somerset County Commissioners Meeting Room at the Somerset County Complex in Princess Anne.
The P & Z Commission will submit recommendations to county commissioners after the hearing.