The Hall County Planning Commission voted Monday night to recommend denial of a poultry company’s proposal to build a 5,000-square-foot processing plant off Timberridge Road near Joe Chandler Road in East Hall.
Z-H Farms LLC, represented by Gainesville lawyer Ryan Reid, met a roomful of opposition to its proposal to “produce an all-natural, organic, antibiotic-free, free-range chicken” on an 81-acre site.
“In order to meet customer (specifications), we are going to process the birds on the farm,” states paperwork filed with the county. “The process will be minimally mechanized. We intend to process a few days a week.”
“Right now, the property is set up as a traditional chicken farm with houses like we have all over Hall County,” Reid told the commission. “... There are people concerned that our uses are going to be more obnoxious than what’s presently there. Honestly, the use that we’re planning is going to be considerably less obnoxious.”
He said the company would add about five jobs.
“This is not going to be a facility that’s going to grow significantly in size, again because of the type of farming is organic and that limits the size of the flock and amount of birds that can be processed,” Reid said. “Again, this is not going to become Pilgrim’s Pride or anything like that.”
A stream of residents spoke against the application on various grounds, including that it didn’t fit in the mainly agricultural-residential area.
“We feel that there is no need for a processing plant of any sort in this area,” said Rick Griffin, who submitted a petition with 321 names. “... We don’t know how big this is going to get. This could be a giant one day. This could be something that the East Hall community wishes that they fought harder for.”
Kim Waters, a Realtor with The Norton Agency in Gainesville, said her concern was that if the poultry processing plant “didn’t work out, then they’re allowed all these other uses that would fall under heavy industrial.
“Allowing this (rezoning) would further deteriorate property values in that whole area.”
Phil Williams, a pastor in the area, said he believed the “whole idea of zoning is to maintain the integrity of a community” and that means keeping residential and industrial uses separated.
“If we start changing that, it’s like changing the rules in the middle of a basketball game,” he said. “The whole fact you’re having to change zoning to allow this says from the very beginning it shouldn’t be allowed.”
The proposal didn’t get any support as it moved from the public hearing to the planning commission’s discussion time.
“It’s in this wrong place,” said Don Smallwood, planning commission chairman, of the proposed plant. “I can’t support this.”
Said commission member Chris Braswell: “I’m all for job creation, but this is a completely new operation, not the expansion of an existing operation, that I think is a good idea but is in the wrong location.”
The matter now moves on to a final decision at the Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting on Nov. 8.