Seven hundred chickens were approved to be slaughtered per day at billionaire Frank Stronach’s farm in Marion County.
The Marion County Board of County Commissioners voted 3-2 on Oct. 20 to approve a special-use permit for a poultry slaughterhouse at Adena Springs in northwest Marion County. Commissioners Kathy Bryant of District 2 and David Moore of District 1 dissented.
Triple Bell Farms, which is part of Adena Springs and owned by Stronach, has been slaughtering 200 chickens per week for two years at the facility without a permit. That number will now increase to 700.
“My client didn’t know it was required to get a permit,” said Jimmy Gooding, Triple Bell Farms’ attorney. “It’s been operating for two years without any complaints, kind of confirming what I indicated about nobody knowing about it.”
Adena Springs is a thoroughbred breeding farm in Williston, Florida. Gooding said Stronach had relocated most of the horses there to his other farm in Kentucky, Adena Springs, and decided to convert a barn used to quarantine horses into the chicken facility.
Neighbors, residents, critics and Stronach’s supporters spoke for several hours at the County Commission meeting Tuesday to voice their opinion on the slaughterhouse.
Not everyone was happy about the approval.
“These people can’t make me believe that they didn’t know that for a state-of-the-art slaughter facility, with offices, USDA buildings, restrooms, rec rooms for their employees, freezers, cold storage rooms and septic tanks, they needed a permit,” said Walter Boring.
Boring owns 200 acres of land located directly behind Adena Springs and said he is worried about the slaughterhouse affecting his land value. He said 120 of those acres are classified as farmland preservation, meaning they can only be developed for farming purposes.
“Trying to sell a piece of land to someone that you’re telling you’re selling next to a commercial slaughterhouse defeats the purpose of people wanting to come out to that farmland preservation,” said Boring.
After Boring spoke, he presented 300 signatures he had collected for a petition to have the commissioners deny Stronach’s special-use permit.
Gooding pointed out that the facility is disguised inside a barn.
“You can’t see it from the road. It’s not going to affect property values,” he said.
Neighbors and residents also raised concern about ground water contamination and odor. Plans for the facility include composting chicken parts. Chicken produce nitrogen at higher levels than other farm animals.
Boring said he was worried that could mean ground water contamination leaking into his property.
The commissioners amended the list of over 20 conditions to the special-use permit to include that “any material associated with this process except finished compost shall be covered under roof and concrete floor” so rainfall won’t contact material.
Other neighbors said their horses and other animals were suffering from increased mosquitoes and flies over the past two years. They now believe it is related to the slaughterhouse.
Commissioner Carl Zalak motioned to approve the permit and Commissioner Earl Arnett seconded the motion.
Bruce Kaster, another neighbor of Stronach, filed an appeal to the special-use permit. Kaster believes Triple Bell Farms does not qualify for a special-use permit.
Kaster said at the meeting the land development code requires an M-2 permit for a slaughterhouse, not a special-use permit.
“It can’t be interpreted into a new category,” said Kaster.
Stronach also owns several horse racing tracks, including Gulfstream Park in South Florida, and restaurants around the county. Forbes listed Stronach as #31 billionaire in Canada and his net worth at $1.4 billion.
Triple Bell Farms has received an organic certification for the chickens.
The approval of the special-use permit is subject to the county board of adjustment’s ruling on Kaster’s appeal.