Posted: Monday, October 15th 2012 at 10:19pm
Hall Planning Commission nixes Z-H Farms' rezoning request
By Marc Eggers Staff
GAINESVILLE – Personnel at the Georgia Mountains Center removed a dividing wall to double the size of the room for Monday night’s Hall County Planning Commission meeting. And well they did, as over 100 area residents showed up to demonstrate their solidarity in opposing the rezoning request of Z-H Farms.
Z-H Farms, represented by Gainesville attorney Ryan Reid, hoped to convert an 81-acre non-operating chicken farm off Joe Chandler Road into an organic, free-range chicken farm and processing facility.
Planned size of the processing facility would be in excess of 5,000 square-feet.
To allow for the processing plant the zoning needed to be changed to Planned Commercial Farm District (PCFD). The site currently is zoned AR (Agricultural-Residential)-IV.
"People are concerned that our use is going to be more obnoxious than what‘s presently there," Reid said. "Honestly, we’re not…because of what we are doing… it will be considerably less."
Reid said that the approximately-30,000 birds would not be concentrated in houses. "Since the waste from the chickens is not going to be concentrated in one area…we’re not going to have the obnoxious fumes often associated with chicken farms."
Reid likened the fenced environment to that of a dairy or cattle farm where the animals are distributed across a relatively large area.
"That’s why free-range chicken is so expensive. People pay a premium for it, (but) there’s a market for it, and that’s a market we’re trying to fill," Reid added.
But area residents don’t see it being that pastorally simple.
Speaking in opposition to the rezoning were: Gainesville attorney Steve Gilliam, East Hall High School principal Jeff Cooper, realtor Kim Waters, Dunagan Chapel First United Methodist Church Pastor Phil Williams, area resident Rick Griffin with a petition opposing the rezoning that contained 312 signatures, and a half-dozen other neighbors and business people.
Vicky Bentley of Flowery Branch, who does not live in the vicinity of the proposed rezoning but who enjoys attending Commission meetings as a concerned citizen, said, "I’ve been attending these…meetings for about fifteen years on a regular basis. This is a very incomplete application and honestly, I would like to see it turned down."
Bentley was referring to the most persistent argument offered by the steady line of speakers opposing the rezoning application: their claim that the application was missing a great deal of specific detail.
Many pointed to the fact that Z-H’s proposal was only 75-words in length and their petition lacked the usual architectural site plans. The claim was made that because of the ambiguous request it would be difficult to know what limits would be in effect.
Commission Chairman Don Smallwood agreed. "It's usually in the best interest of the applicant to give us as much information as you can."
"I think you’ve got a great idea there," Smallwood continued, "“but my personal opinion is that it’s in the wrong place."
The other members of the Planning Commission agreed and voted unanimously to deny the rezoning request.
The matter now goes before the Hall County Commission.
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