OSFR’s leadership in amending the Land Development Regulation’s for Columbia County in regard to industrial agriculture is described in an article by Carl McKinney in the Lake City Reporter today, Dec. 22, 2016.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
What about the next poultry plant?
By CARL MCKINNEY [email protected]
Prompted by Fort White residents’ outrage over an industrial-scale poultry complex gearing up operations near the Santa Fe River, the county is eyeing an ordinance to prevent similar businesses from setting up shop near the Floridan aquifer’s vulnerable areas.
The county’s planning and zoning advisory board on Tuesday recommended amending the local land regulations to require special approval for high-concentration animal feeding facilities, such as the JTC Farms poultry complex on Wilson Springs Road. Zoning officials are required under state law to approve standard farming operations, said Planning and Zoning Director Brandon Stubbs.
If the county commission approves changes to the local land codes, however, medium or large concentrated animal feeding sites will be considered intensive agricultural operations. Zoning battle could decide fate of future such projects.
Intensive agricultural uses require a special exemption from the county, which can be denied when a facility would be too close to aquifer recharge areas, Stubbs said. “It would strengthen our protection against things that could cause harm,” he added.
The updated rules would use the Environmental Protection Agency’s definition of a medium or large concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO. In March, county commissioners said they were caught off-guard when the regulations allowed for the JTC Farms to begin building the complex without their knowledge.
Merilee Malwitz-Jipson, from the Sierra Club environmental group’s Fort White office, said the poultry farm flew under everybody’s radar until it was too late for residents to oppose it. “Nobody knew it was going on until it was being constructed,” she said. “It just went through and outraged everybody in the community. Not only are you going to have the waste, you’re going to have the smell.”
The site will be located close to high-traffic eco-tourism businesses, such as tube-rental shops, Malwitz-Jipson said, adding the farm will produce a large amount of waste that threatens local springs. “We’re a big agricultural community, but our springs are equally important,” she said.
Since late last year, dozens of Fort White residents have spoken out against the complex. “We’re not against farms, but this is a different animal altogether,” Malwitz-Jipson said. “This is industrial.” The 12-coop poultry complex will house around 300,000 chickens, which will be sold to Pilgrim’s Pride, one of the largest poultry enterprises in the world.
Malwitz-Jipson was the policy director of the Our Santa Fe River environmental group when the county hosted a workshop in March aimed at discussing changes to the land regulations. “There’s plenty of room all over the county to do intensive farming,” she said. “There’s so many other places this thing could have gone.”
Jim Tatum, Our Santa Fe River’s historian, helped lead the push to get the zoning rules amended. “The Santa Fe River is one of the real economic engines in this area,” Tatum said. “If we get more of these, people will stop coming here.