July 16, 2019 County Council Meeting and Open Work Session
Link to Open Work Sessions
Link to Open Work Sessions
Once again, the members of NAG and serval community members attended the morning council meeting. “The Friends of the Nanticoke” and “The Nanticoke Watershed Alliance” sent representatives as well. At least 6 people spoke against the chicken sludge and storage tank and at times their accounts were very graphic verbalizations of how badly the sludge had affected their ability to be outside on their own property. One person talked about having to destroy produce from his stand because the flies overwhelmed it and that children could not play outside because the grass was “working” with flies.
Our cause warranted a planned “open work session” after the initial meeting was over. Members of the council, the Department of Planning and Zoning and Community Development were among those who sat together to review the sludge and the storage tank issues.
At the end of the session, Council President, John Cannon, asked some people to get more information. The council entertained the following ideas which were brought up multiple times.
As per the “Right to Farm” provision, “An Agricultural Reconciliation Board is a five or seven member committee of appropriate members of the community who mediate and sometimes arbitrate disputes between parties resulting from perceived or real nuisance complaints.” Participants are bound by the county’s decision, but can appeal to the circuit court.
Change of Status
The group wanted to know if the storage tank is business related and not under the protection of an ag-related storage facility. (This apparently is what Dorchester County did by virtue of the proposed tank’s size.) The group discussed the differences between business and agriculture uses and wanted to learn more about how the tank would be used and where the sludge can and cannot go. In addition, one council member asked if the sludge is not a 100% ag product, how can it be considered agriculture. Likewise, the use of the roads surrounding the tank may undergo a status change.
Good Neighbor Appeal
One council member suggested that a representative of the county appeal to Mr. Burns personally to not put the tank on Porter Mill Road or near other residences. The council member asked if anyone had gone to Burns and told him that people are very upset about this.
In addition, most of the council members were adamant that there should be assurances that the spreading and storage of the sludge strictly follows all regulations and that all activity can be tracked. More information from the Maryland Department of Agriculture would be needed to ensure that the individuals are “following the letter of the law.”
Along with looking for solutions to the immediate problem, the council president asked the Department of Zoning & Planning to investigate how other counties have updated their agricultural zoning by instituting multiple ag districts. (Right now, Wicomico County has only one ag district, Ag 1.) Here is the zoning map from the Wicomico County, Maryland webpage.