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Odor rules not applicable to chicken farm

Richard D. L. Fulton

(12/15) A 60,000-chicken farm proposed for Cumberland Township will not have to take any measures to control odors if it is approved by township supervisors.

A hearing held by the Cumberland Township Board of Supervisors on the proposed chicken farm began on the evening of December 14, and ended without a decision on the morning of December 15.

The date-spanning hearing was held at the Barlow Fire Department fire hall in order to accommodate the 100 to 150 members of the public attending to testify or observe the proceedings on an application for a conditional use permit for an "organic" chicken farm proposed along Mummasburg Road.

The request for a conditional use permit was submitted to the township by Brandon S. Keller, who has the proposed farm site located at 1714 Mummasburg Road under an agreement of sale with owner Shirley A. Wagner.

Keller is seeking approval of a "free-range" chicken farm housing tens of thousands of hens to produce eggs for the organic foods market.

Such a farm, designated as a concentrated animal operation, is only allowed as a conditional use in the Agricultural/Residential (AR) zoning district in which the proposed site is located.

Specifically the plan calls for the construction of two 524-foot by 80-foot poultry barns and a 28-foot by 44-foot egg-packing room.

The hearing generally did not seem to go well for Keller, as opponents of the project repeatedly pointed out deficiencies they felt existed in the conditional use application, while others expressed concerns that the size and type of the operation exempted it from implementing compulsory odor controls.

Attorney Susan Smith, representing a number of township property owners, "grilled" David Keener, TeamAg Inc., Ephrata, the project engineer, and Devin Gerlach, TeamAg’s manure processing and odor control specialist, over the lack of pertinent details on a map submitted with the application, and the lack of details regarding the proposal in the application package itself.

For example, information Smith pointed out the map lacked contour details, depicted unidentified features, and failed to depict other proposed elements of the operation.

Smith called her sole witness, engineer Jack Powell, who ran down a checklist of information required by the zoning ordinance which he found lacking, including runoff information, the fate of the various stands of trees, wetlands data, water use information, the lack of a manure plan, and vermin controls, among others.

Toward the end of the more than five-hour hearing, resident Elizabeth Magner said residents were being asked to "reasonably accept an unreasonable change. This is not a cookie-cutter facility. The township has never granted a poultry-intensive operation in the AR district."

Around 12:45 a.m., the supervisors moved to continue to hearing on December 20 at 7 p.m. at the township office.

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