By Guy Leonard, The County Times (guyleonard-at-countytimes.net)
Johnny Knott, on his 30-acre farm in Mechanicsville, is pressing ahead with his proposal to open a meat processing facility on his farm. (Photo: Guy Leonard)
HOLLYWOOD, Md.—A farmer looking to establish a processing facility on his farm to allow for the butchering, freezing and sale of locally raised meats will get the chance to present his case to the zoning appeals board in January.
Johnny Knott, who faced community opposition last year when he attempted to establish a slaughterhouse on his Mechanicsville property, says his latest proposal would still benefit farmers in the tri-county region while having a smaller impact than his initial plan.
The hearing was originally planned for tonight but the zoning appeals board could not reach a quorum, necessitating a hearing examiner. But, citizens who live near the proposed site complained they should be allowed to have a hearing before the full board to ensure the integrity of the process and allow their input to be heard.
County government, shortly afterward, directed the meeting date be changed.
Knotts plan is to have the processing facility receive the slaughtered local meat from surrounding farms via a mobile freezer unit in the form of a vehicle trailer.
County records of the project show the facility would only be used for aging, cutting and packaging meat and would be situated 800 feet from Reeves Road on Knotts 30-acre farm.
The mobile meat trailer, was well as two fixed trailers on the site, are designed to prevent the escape of odors, animal byproducts and gray water. The mobile meat truck would be the only vehicle traveling to and from the site.
County officials said because of the novelty of Knotts original slaughterhouse proposal, there was confusion over whether that plan amounted to a major or minor agricultural use.
The appeals board will decide whether or not they will grant a conditional use to the newly proposed processing facility, which has been deemed a major agricultural use, according to county documents.
Its a murky issue, weve never done what hes asking, said Bob Schaller, director of the St. Marys Department of Economic and Community Development.
Schaller added that such a facility would mean much lower costs for local farmers who want to raise livestock for meat sale; currently they must ship their meat to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-certified facility in either Virginia or Northern Maryland for processing.
Having a processing facility locally, however small at first, makes sense to kickstart another agricultural industry in Calvert, St. Marys and Charles counties, Schaller said.
Knott said the trailer he proposes to transport the already-slaughtered animals to his processing facility would be able to carry no more than seven beef carcasses at one time, limiting the traffic on Reeves Road.
Its not going to have any impact, no noise, no smell, no traffic, Knott told The County Times. The USDA man will be right there to put his stamp on it.
Because many Southern Maryland farmers abandoned farming tobacco to take part in the state-sponsored buyout 10 years ago, Knott said new industries are needed to stay profitable.
I hope they go back to livestock to save their farms, Knott said.