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Meat processing plant near Zoo?

Janet Imrick
Randolph Hub

 

ASHEBORO — The Randolph County Planning Board tabled discussion on rezoning property near the North Carolina Zoo until their January meeting.

 

Speakers supporting and opposing the proposal had a lively debate for roughly two hours at the meeting on Nov. 15.

 

Jamie Crumley asked for 2469 Old Cox Road, a 5.9-acre lot north of the Zoo, to be converted into a heavy industrial zone so that she can build a 3,600-square-foot meat processing facility.

 

The Zoo and the North Carolina Zoo Society opposes her request, saying that the land is within the First Environmental (E-1) District and may impact zoo facilities.

 

Crumley said that a meat processing plant will support local farmers who must otherwise transport their livestock outside the county.

 

"Farmers are in desperate need for their businesses to grow," she said. "There is nothing more heritage in Randolph County than agriculture."

 

"Operation of such a facility is not appropriate next to the Zoo,” the NC Zoological Society said in a statement. “To breach the E-1 classification would be to abandon the County's commitment to the Zoo, the citizens of Randolph County and North Carolina."

 

The County Board of Adjustments approved Crumley's initial request for a variance on August 2. She said she withdrew the request after learning it was incorrect. The Zoo appealed the approval in North Carolina Superior Court.

 

The Planning Board voted to wait since that appeal is still pending.

 

Crumley argued before the board that the processing plant would not be visible from the road, would not allow tractor trailers, and would fit the existing stipulations for agricultural use.

 

Michael Moss, a farmer in Ramseur, supports the rezoning. He said he has to wait for limited slots to open at processing facilities in Concord and Walnut Cove. "This is one of the best opportunities I've seen come along," he said.

 

Agricultural teacher Dustin Ritter also spoke in support of Crumley, saying that agricultural jobs available in Randolph County are limited for students who do not live on farms.

 

The Zoo and the Zoo Society says this could set a precedent to allow more facilities that would hinder the Zoo's mission. They cited concerns about noise and odors.

 

“Allowing a heavy industrial zone would allow the camel’s nose under the proverbial tent,” said Zoo Society attorney Chris Scott.

 

Director of Animal Health Jb Minter said that the proposal would place the processing plant close to his rehabilitation facilities. Transporting animals, he said, can introduce new diseases into the area because the stress of travel lowers the animals' immune systems, which is known as shipping fever.

 

“Noise pollution could cause rehabilitation of animals to be delayed or irreparably harmed,” he said.

 

Crumley said that this is her personal property, and that the land on Old Cox Road is already connected to the city's sewer system, thereby avoiding the need for a leeching pond or lagoon.

 

Before public comment, Randolph County Manager Hal Johnson explained the history of the E-1 district around the Zoo, which was established in 1973.

 

Planning Board member Ken Austin asked Jamie Crumley if animals would be held overnight. Crumley said that would depend on the demand, and the intention is not to keep live animals on site for multiple days.

 

Board member John Cable asked what kind of animals would be processed. Crumley said it would be restricted to cattle and emus, to accommodate the Amaroo Hills Emu Farm in Liberty.

 

The Planning Board usually meets on the first Tuesday following the first Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the 1909 Randolph County Historic Courthouse Meeting Room, 145-C Worth Street, Asheboro, unless otherwise posted.