Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Countryside Neighbors ponder chicken poop at meeting with Roanoke Co-op

Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op Proposal

UPDATE (see at end of this article): “Chicken poop” by any name is “chicken manure” or something else it might be called in the heat of dissent. Monday evening the Countryside Neighborhood Alliance’s quest speaker was Sean Jordan, Farm Manager for the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op.

It was a full-blown four-alarm meeting as at least 40 area residents, some from Miller Court and others we rarely, if ever, see at our meetings. The questions veered off into areas that were very old news. For example, the land had been swapped with the Roanoke Airport years ago and those adjoining it didn’t know that.

Mayor David Bowers and Councilman Bill Bestpitch came. Bestpitch afterwards addressed the members. He didn’t know whether he would vote for it in its current form he said. He promised that if it devalued homes he would not vote for it.

That was the main concern. The home bought just before the golf course was closed sold for $222K. The house next door to it was assessed exactly the same. It sold for $192K after the golf course closed – $8K under its assessed value. Another across the street from this home assessed the same at $200K just sold for $173,800. One other are being rented because they wouldn’t sell when listed under their assessed value. The next CNA meeting will have Susan Lower, director of real estate valuation as a guest speaker.

This 12-acre track was never part of the golf course. In the Master Plan adopted by city council it is designated for urban agriculture. Admittedly none of us gave a thought to there being 400 chickens, a donkey and Pyrenees untethered dogs as part of any proposal.

Eight “high tunnel” houses 30 feet by 100 feet and 11 feet high (in green) would cover the 12 acres. Some for growing food others for flowers. A packing house and small community room would be at the corner (blue). Jordan said it would not be large enough for our meetings.

The building would house retail space to sell produce and eggs two days a week. Jordan also said he would be on the premises 16 hours a day. He was looking for a house to buy near it and most everyone in the room swarmed him with offers to sell him their home.

Funny how 6 years of angst can make people want to move. That is the collateral damage not taken into account when a neighborhood is violated.

Rick Williams with the Planning Commission came along to support Jordan. As usual Rick and I had a “friendly” head butting. What a stubborn “one track” guy he is … I’ve told him enough times you’d think he’d straighten up.

One minute he’s telling us how the farm will enhance our property then the next he is telling us we can track him down in 20 years if it doesn’t work out. Aaaghhh! Like we haven’t experienced that in the last 6 years. We don’t want to be urban guinea pigs.

The only other city farm similar to this is in Pittsburgh, Pa. said Jordan.

Jordan said there would be 4 chicken coops 10 by 20 feet and a bee yard 40 by 40 feet (yellow)

There is a pump house and tool sheds scattered throughout (red).

Jordan offered a bus trip to a farm for any who would be willing to go – lunch included. This is not quite a “Virginia Uranium” lobby trip but to retired “early bird special” people it is still a road trip with FOOD. Fifteen have signed up already. We just need to set the date.

That’s the way to win “hearts and minds” – now we’re getting somewhere. Seriously as it looked in the room Monday night it seemed a 50/50 split. Skeptics were won over while others not so much – especially those homes/townhomes immediately adjacent to the property.

At a meeting Thursday, September 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the William Fleming Cafeteria the city will hold a public meeting on the farm. Another public hearing for CIP improvements will be held September 29.

UPDATE: An email answer to questions sent Tuesday to Sean Jordan on lighting, dogs and chickens reaction when disturbed. They plan to buy 200 2-month old chickens to start then buy the next 200.

There won’t be any general lighting. At most some shielded “porch light” type fixtures at the primary building.The pump house is for the well, and exact placement will be determined by the well digger. Very possible it will end up at the other end of the ridge, near where the bee yard is. I’m working with ECS on water and soil screening, and should have preliminary analysis by the end of the month. The hoop houses near the building will support direct sales ( the farmers mkt); those at the other end are production houses. I think we’ll build 2 a year, starting near the building. There was no way for me to fit more up near the building without it looking ugly- 3 I can manage to screen pretty well.

You are right that chickens disturbed will squawk. The dogs, landscaping, and fencing, as well as the location of the chicken yard generally, are designed to make sure they are not disturbed. Chickens go to roost at dark- into their houses to go to sleep. This makes it easier to secure them. From sun up till dark, when there is more exposure (and greater potential for being disturbed) there will always be someone there- usually me.

The dogs I have in mind -Great Pyrennies – aren’t really barkers; more growlers. They are bred as flock guardians, and only respond to threats. I’ve worked with them before as sheep dogs, and they are good with children and people in general who aren’t threatening the flock directly. They will perceive most other animals as a threat, and their instinct is to enforce the boundary, rather than attack (although they will attack as a last resort). So the most common scenario is trespasser wanders in…..grrrrr……escort to property line……done. I think its a good solution with minimal impact, but I’m open to hearing alternatives. Our bottom-line concern is protecting all of our assets- buildings, crops, chickens, etc- in a way that is visually acceptable, and as non-violent as possible.

Proposals for Countryside property includes a soccer sportsplex and co-op

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Community

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Comments (7)

Perry Keeton

September 13th, 2011 at 10:34 AM    

As you know, Countryside Golf Course, and those residents affected by the disposition of the property, are located entirely within zip code 24017.

A lot of retail businesses gather geographic information on their customers by asking for their zip code upon checkout. I would suggest that the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op try this for, say, three months. At the point in time that those giving 24017 as their residence zip code become the predominant shopper, then, and only then, should the Co-op consider placing their “farm” in the 24017 area code.

Until that time, it seems to me that it would be more prudent for them to consider placing the “farm” in the zip code in which they are located, 24015. A counter argument that nearly all commodities consumed by persons residing in the 24017 zip code come from areas far removed from their locale doesn’t work. That would be true for persons residing anywhere, thus produces a level playing field.

Consider only those commodities produced locally for, and sold by, this co-op as the determining factor. Let those who buy these products be the ones affected by the inconveniences and odors.

Jack Mcguire

September 13th, 2011 at 11:22 AM    

You would think that something like this would be in violation of existing City code.


September 13th, 2011 at 2:16 PM    

Good point Jack – City Code per Chris Chittum, Planning Administrator:

Regarding number of chickens, I think you may be referring to Sec. 6-95 of the City Code. Here’s my interpretation of that code section:

Limits the number of chickens to 10 on any parcel that is less than 20,000 square feet AND is not zoned for agricultural use.
Up to 40 chickens if you have land area between 20,000 square feet and 5 acres AND it is not zoned for agricultural use.

There is no limit when you have a legally-established farm of 5 acres or more, regardless of zoning.

If a parcel is zoned for agricultural use, then there is no limit on the number of chickens, regardless of the size of the property.

Chickens must be in a fenced area that is at least 50′ from any residential building.

The area where poultry is kept must be maintained clean, sanitary and free from refuse.

Jack Mcguire

September 13th, 2011 at 4:34 PM    

So are they going to say that this is a legally established farm? And can you have a “farm” in a residential area after the fact as opposed to grandfathered in?


September 13th, 2011 at 6:24 PM    

It would have to be rezoned from ROS (Residential Open Space) to Agriculture/Commercial.

Jack Mcguire

September 14th, 2011 at 4:32 PM    

And as we know, the council will do whatever it wants in the end.

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