Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chicken Ranch Proposal Meets Opposition in Rural Clay Area

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chicken Ranch Proposal Meets Opposition in Rural Clay Area

Article excerpt

Lots of folks around rural Thunder Road in Middleburg have farm

animals, including chickens. Just not thousands of them.

But that may not be the case much longer if Tyson Foods Inc.,

the nation's largest poultry producer, gets its way.

Tyson, which owns plants in Jacksonville and in Clay County,

has submitted plans for two new poultry houses on 77 acres

surrounded on three sides by residential areas off Thunder Road

south of County Road 218.

The company first must get the property rezoned to agricultural

district, which may not sit too well with homeowners near the

Tyson property.

The first airing of the proposal, along with several other

rezoning applications, will come at 7 p.m. Tuesday before the

Clay County Planning Commission on the fourth floor of the

county administration building in Green Cove Springs.

The area around Thunder Road, which extends from County Road

218 to Florida 16, used to be in an agricultural zone. But the

land was redesignated for residential development in the

county's comprehensive plan several years ago, said County

Zoning Director Linda Jackson.

As such, Jackson said, new construction is limited to

singlefamily homes on minimum lot sizes of 10 acres. Only seven

new houses could be built on Tyson's property under current

zoning restrictions.

John Bogin, Tyson's plant manager in Jacksonville, said Tyson

owns the land but farmers will build and own the poultry houses.

"We contract for the birds," Bogin said. "We own the birds. We

pay them [farmers] to raise them."

According to a report prepared by county zoning staff, the

77acre site on the east side of Thunder Road about a mile south

of Darlene Road would be rezoned as an agricultural district,

which permits broiler houses and egg-laying production houses.

Tyson would be required to meet certain conditions, including:

Submit a detailed site plan showing the location of all

structures and the access and setbacks of buildings from each

other and from the property lines.

Provide a minimum space of 50 feet between buildings.

Establish a minimum setback of 200 feet between buildings and

adjacent property lines.

Setbacks notwithstanding, some homeowners in the Thunder Road

community aren't thrilled with the prospect of having a chicken

ranch for a neighbor.

"This is something we definitely don't want out here," said

Judy Wurster, who owns a home and Cypress Meadows Farm on

Darlene Road. …

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