Every seat was filled and people stood around the walls of the Fairfield County Council chamber to protest the possibility of a zoning change that would allow a turkey farm in their neighborhood at a special called Council workshop meeting Wednesday evening. The Council members each spoke about the issue with the audience, and it didn’t take long to see that the majority of the Council was not eager to approve the land use change either.
Last week at their regular meeting, all of the Council members voted on the first reading to allow a zoning change for a Fairfield County property owner to use his land for a Circle SO turkey farm. The request came only three months after the County adopted a new county wide land use plan that relegated turkey farmers to specific, isolated locations in the County.
The zoning reclassification request was brought by David B. Nidiffer Jr., requesting his 142-acre parcel on Horsecreek Road near I-77 be changed from RD-1 (Rural Residential) to RD (Rural Resource District). The land is not located where the County designated zoning for poultry farming.
“We have had numerous call, texts and emails,” said Council Chairman David Ferguson. “After getting all the information on this property and this project, I called for this meeting so the Council could know everything they need to.
“We zoned the areas around I-77 for future industrial development,” Ferguson said. “That is one of the things Council will have to consider for the future. That, plus the fact that we have a handful of neighbors here tonight. We have folks who don’t want a turkey farm near their house, except for the guy who owns the land and wants a turkey farm. We certainly don’t want to tie the hands of future Council members and take away future industrial sites that are an economic development tool. Would an industrial use go with a turkey farm? Probably not.”
“I have always tried to do what the citizens want us to do,” said Council member Mary Lynn Kinley. “What is best for the people? That’s how I have always made my voice. I just feel like this is not a good place for a turkey operation.”
“I reciprocate what Ms. Kinley has said,” Council member Kamau Marcharia said. “They (Nidiffer) said they have a new methodology to curb the smell. That smell can spread 10 miles or so. I find it repugnant to put that in a community that has to go to church and live nearby. At this point in time, I do not support it.”
“I represent these people who are here tonight, ” said District 7 Councilman David Brown. “I don’t want people to get carried away with hearsay, but I found out the nearest house is three quarters of a mile away. Circle S is doing a barn that is enclosed and doesn’t stink. We need someone from DHEC to come in here to see if it will affect the neighborhood. The way I look at it, I don’t want to walk away from the taxes (the County would receive from the business) unless there is something wrong with it. All that should be looked at and guaranteed. I believe in property rights.”
“Originally, I voted yes. As you see here, there are many residents who are opposed to this,” Council member Mikel Trapp said. “The next vote, I will vote no in order to vote it down.”
“I can’t vote on this because of my position,” said Council member Carolyn Robinson, who is employed by attorney Creighton Coleman, who represents Nidiffer in seeking the zoning change. “In talking to people in the County that have open turkey barns, they say that unless you are less than 3,000 feet away, in a wet field, the smell isn’t noticeable. I don’t think the guy who wants this (zoning change) knew we were changing the zoning Dec. 11 (2011). He put in his (zoning change request) application 44 days later. We have to give him some consideration on this. There are turkey barns out by Lake Wateree. This is economic development no matter how you look at it. I ask that you go by a turkey farm. You don’t smell them. I ask you to go look. It is a more contained barn that is required now.”
“If not for the future of economic development, this would be a much easier decision,” said Ferguson. “If there is any humidity, you can smell the turkeys. I am not willing to vote for this because this is a premier place for industry. We paid big bucks for a man to help us decide the County zoning, and now, three months later, we go and change that? The fact of the matter is, it would do an injustice to future Council members when they look for a spot to put industry. Twenty years from now, I don’t want anyone to wonder, what was that Council thinking?
“We have mapped out where turkey farms can be in the County, and those areas are a lot further from homes and the industrial corridor of I-77,” said Ferguson. “As a Council, we have planned for the future. That’s why we have a zoning plan now.”
The Council will have a second reading on the requested zoning change at their next regular meeting on May 14. Citizens wishing to address Council on this matter may sign up to speak with the County Clerk before the meeting begins at 6 p.m.