County balks at chicken processing facility

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Posted March 18, 2021 | By Brendan Farrell, Ocala Gazette 

The Marion County Commission denied a special use permit to allow a small chicken processing facility near Summerfield. [Stock image]

The Marion County Commission rejected a request for a special-use permit for a chicken processing facility in Summerfield during Tuesday’s meeting.

Ximena and Thal Smith, who run Brick City Farms in Summerfield, were planning on using the permit to construct a 300-square-foot chicken processing facility that would process 500 hens per month plus eggs. They would also grind waste to use as dog food.

The plan was opposed by several neighbors, who were concerned about the effect customers traveling up and down the single-lane, flag-lot driveway at Southeast 56th Avenue would have on the road, as well as issues with the smell the facility would create and environmental concerns.

“That road coming in is privately maintained,” neighbor Tracy Piper said. “And we’re always contributing some money into it, but there are a lot of potholes on it. And the increased traffic would just cost us a lot of money and tear up our road.”

Thal Smith said the property currently houses 350 organically raised chickens, and he delivers orders to most of his customers or sells at farmers markets.

“As far as concerns on wear and tear of the road due to increased traffic, anybody else that lives on that road, they don’t get scrutinized how many times they can come up and down there with their trailers or their trucks or deliveries or this or that,” Smith said.

Ultimately, the commission voted to deny the special-use permit request. The nature of the access to the Smiths’ location was an issue, as were the nearby residences. Commissioners also suggested the Smiths could continue to deliver the chickens to customers without increasing traffic on the road.

“I’m usually in favor of this,” Commissioner Carl Zalak said. “I do think, unfortunately, in this particular instance, with the drive and things that you have going on, it is going to impact your neighbors in a different way versus if you were the lot on the street.”

In November, the county commission approved a special-use permit for a chicken processing facility submitted by King Tut Corporation. That plan was also opposed by the surrounding community. The plant will process between 1,000 and 1,200 chickens per month for kosher and halal products for the Zeezenia Kitchen and Market in Gainesville.

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